2019: #6 – The Guineveres (Sarah Domet)

2019: #6 – The Guineveres (Sarah Domet)The Guineveres by Sarah Domet
Published by Flatiron Books on July 11, 2017
Genres: literary fiction
Pages: 352

To four girls who have nothing, their friendship is everything: they are each other's confidants, teachers, and family. The girls are all named Guinevere--Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win--and it is the surprise of finding another Guinevere in their midst that first brings them together. They come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent by different paths, delivered by their families, each with her own complicated, heartbreaking story that she safeguards. Gwen is all Hollywood glamour and swagger; Ginny is a budding artiste with a sentiment to match; Win's tough bravado isn't even skin deep; and Vere is the only one who seems to be a believer, trying to hold onto her faith that her mother will one day return for her. However, the girls are more than the sum of their parts and together they form the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives.
The nuns who raise them teach the Guineveres that faith is about waiting: waiting for the mail, for weekly wash day, for a miracle, or for the day they turn eighteen and are allowed to leave the convent. But the Guineveres grow tired of waiting. And so when four comatose soldiers from the War looming outside arrive at the convent, the girls realize that these men may hold their ticket out.
In prose shot through with beauty, Sarah Domet weaves together the Guineveres' past, present, and future, as well as the stories of the female saints they were raised on, to capture the wonder and tumult of girlhood and the magical thinking of young women as they cross over to adulthood.

The Guineveres is the story of 4 girls named Guinevere who befriend each other after each being left at a convent to live until they are 18. It is wartime (though we don’t know which war, exactly), and after a failed escape attempt, they are assigned to taking care of young, comatose soldiers in the convent’s sick ward. For the girls, these soldiers aren’t a chore, but a possible way out of their current lives. 

I finished this, but it was a really slow read. You get each girl’s back story, but I wanted these earlier in the book. Once I read a back story, I felt like it was easier to tell each girl apart; before that, I had to concentrate to realize who was who. There are also stories of several saints interspersed in the story. I felt very lost in time, because some times I felt sure it was WWII, other times it felt more like Vietnam, and I could have been completely wrong and it was actually WWI — there’s no real way to tell. Being unable to place the time period was disorienting. Also, the treatment of the soldiers by the girls made me uncomfortable at times. They were treated more like dolls than like human beings.

Overall it’s not a terrible story, but it was too slow for me and by the end I found I didn’t really care what happened to each girl.

Other reviews:

  • “Although I wasn’t crazy about the ending, I felt The Guineveres was an effective coming-of-age story which explored the sometimes difficult friendships between teenage girls and the idea of creating homes and families of our own.”Musings of a Literary Wanderer
  • “On it’s surface, when the book starts out, it seems like a story about four girls who do what four girls are want to do when they have little adult supervision.”A Bookish Affair
  • “I really wasn’t a fan of The Guineveres. It was anticlimactic and thoroughly a snooze. I wouldn’t recommend this novel.”A Paper Arrow

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