Readers have long been fascinated by stories of women apart from the world, from 19th-century tales of girls imprisoned in convents to more contemporary gems like Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars (1992). Sarah Domet’s debut novel, The Guineveres, is a wonderful entry into this rich tradition.
Four girls, all improbably named Guinevere, are left by their parents with the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration. The convent, at first, seems similar to an all-girls high school, complete with cutely named factions. The titular girls (known as Vere, Gwen, Ginny and Win) initially bond over their shared name as well as their desire to escape. It turns out, however, that the convent is not unlike the real world. The girls experience friendship and romance, tragedy and betrayal.
The Guineveres is mainly narrated by the more reserved Vere, who tells the story as an older woman looking back, and Domet deftly handles this retrospective voice. Brief chapters on the lives of various female saints imbue The Guineveres with a broader sense of the adversity women have faced over the centuries. All the while, Domet sustains a sense of humor. “Who’s the patron saints of patron saints?” Win quips at one point.
At times sacred, occasionally profane, The Guineveres is a heavenly read from an author worth watching.