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The Rebel Nun

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Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By the end of the sixth century, even this is eroding as the church begins to eject women from the clergy and declares them too unclean to touch sacramental objects or even their priest-husbands. Craving the legitimacy thwarted by her bastard status, Clotild seeks to become the next abbess of the female Monastery of the Holy Cross, the most famous of the women’s cloisters of the early Middle Ages. When the bishop of Poitiers blocks her appointment and seeks to control the nunnery himself, Clotild masterminds an escape, leading a group of uncloistered nuns on a dangerous pilgrimage to beg her royal relatives to intercede on their behalf. But the bishop refuses to back down, and a bloody battle ensues. Will Clotild and her sisters succeed with their quest, or will they face excommunication, possibly even death? In the only historical novel written about the incident, The Rebel Nun is a richly imagined story about a truly remarkable heroine.


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Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By the end of the sixth century, even this is eroding as the church begins to eject women from the clergy and declares them too unclean to touch sacramental objects or even their priest-husbands. Craving the legitimacy thwarted by her bastard status, Clotild seeks to become the next abbess of the female Monastery of the Holy Cross, the most famous of the women’s cloisters of the early Middle Ages. When the bishop of Poitiers blocks her appointment and seeks to control the nunnery himself, Clotild masterminds an escape, leading a group of uncloistered nuns on a dangerous pilgrimage to beg her royal relatives to intercede on their behalf. But the bishop refuses to back down, and a bloody battle ensues. Will Clotild and her sisters succeed with their quest, or will they face excommunication, possibly even death? In the only historical novel written about the incident, The Rebel Nun is a richly imagined story about a truly remarkable heroine.

30 review for The Rebel Nun

  1. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    The Monastery of the Holy Cross was once the most prestigious royal monastery in Gaul (Western Europe) of the early Middle Ages, “populated largely by Frankish women of royal and noble birth…” The monastery started declining after a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. This story is based on the true story of Clotild, the rebel nun. Poitiers, 588 AD. Sister Clotild of the Holy Cross Monastery is a witness to drastically changing approach toward wome The Monastery of the Holy Cross was once the most prestigious royal monastery in Gaul (Western Europe) of the early Middle Ages, “populated largely by Frankish women of royal and noble birth…” The monastery started declining after a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. This story is based on the true story of Clotild, the rebel nun. Poitiers, 588 AD. Sister Clotild of the Holy Cross Monastery is a witness to drastically changing approach toward women, who “were declared unclean, and (..) were prohibited from touching the sacramental objects. Priests could no longer sleep with their wives…” Clotild is illegitimate daughter of King Charibert and with her curious mind as a child she was allowed to study alongside her half-brothers. She learned the purpose of different herbs from her mother. She was expected to be the next abbess, but that’s not what happens. Under the new abbess controlled by a bishop, whatever joy the sisters were allowed to have gets eroded. Despite the cold, the bishop cuts the rations of wood and food. Thus, the first plans for escape spark the nighttime conversations. The routine of prayer and work satisfied Clotild in the way it absorbed the hours of the day. But the cloistered life under the new abbess and the controlling bishop leaves her bereft of purpose. And that’s when she starts questioning the purpose of life. Before she saw purpose in reading and copying old manuscripts, deepening intellectual curiosity with classics and philosophy. That is what she considered a life worth living. Now, there is only gnawing left. In the 6th century Europe, women’s choices were very limited. Many of them entered the monastery to escape marriages and the danger of childbearing, not for their piety. As a woman, you had three choices: marriage, prostitution, or the cloister. Clotild is a truly remarkable heroine and fully captured in this story. She enters the cloister willingly to seek protection for her uncertain future. She adapts to the simple life and under the right tutelage finds some joy in daily tasks. But with the new abbess, when the little joy she was allowed to have is squished out of her life and constant hunger reminds her of her existence and when she sees wrong-doing such as thievery, adultery, gluttony. What do you do? Do you just close your eyes and accept the corruption. No, she is an inspirational character who refuses to stand by and watch the values of Christianity crumble to the ground. She stands up for what she believes is right. I applaud authors who shed light on little known pockets of history. Not only that, but the craft of weaving such poignant story and illuminating with such beautiful prose, I’m full of admiration and grateful for such authors. This gem of historical fiction, penned by a very talented writer is the kind of story that makes this genre very fascinating. Brilliantly written. The voice of Clotild pulled me into the story from her first words. I was very captivated by her story, wanting to know what happens next, when the tipping point comes, how she handles the rebellion and how it ends. The setting is very real, you can feel the cold walls of the cloister and the simple life they experience with some hunger; and how that affects them. The feelings of disappointment, shame, starvation and isolation are very real as well. But there is still a glimpse of hope that fairness would prevail. This is one of those moving stories that when the end comes you’re not ready to part from this heroine and this gifted writing. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Is this real life? Is there light at the end of the endless WWII tunnel historical fiction as a genre has been stuck in for the last four years? Is it a novel set the early Middle Ages that is NOT about the Vikings? That isn't even set in Britain? I mean, this checks all my boxes, and that's weird because nothing checks all my boxes. My boxes are weird. Early medieval church politics? Yes, please. Sixth century French royalty? Yes, that too. Nuns? Always yes. The amazing women of the early Middle Is this real life? Is there light at the end of the endless WWII tunnel historical fiction as a genre has been stuck in for the last four years? Is it a novel set the early Middle Ages that is NOT about the Vikings? That isn't even set in Britain? I mean, this checks all my boxes, and that's weird because nothing checks all my boxes. My boxes are weird. Early medieval church politics? Yes, please. Sixth century French royalty? Yes, that too. Nuns? Always yes. The amazing women of the early Middle Ages leading a feminist rebellion? UH. YES. PLEASE. THIS IS SO RARE I AM SO HAPPY. PLEASE, PUBLISHERS. MORE OF THIS PLEASE.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    3.5 Stars The Rebel Nun focuses on Clotild, who has taken up the life in an abbey to protect her from the possibility of assassination, as she is a potential heir to the throne of King Charibert I, who had a number of children with several wives . These heirs have been highly competitive to assume the throne and already several heirs have already been some murdered by siblings. Though she is unlikely to be chosen as a female and illegitimate bastard of a favorite mistress (a slave woman, who refu 3.5 Stars The Rebel Nun focuses on Clotild, who has taken up the life in an abbey to protect her from the possibility of assassination, as she is a potential heir to the throne of King Charibert I, who had a number of children with several wives . These heirs have been highly competitive to assume the throne and already several heirs have already been some murdered by siblings. Though she is unlikely to be chosen as a female and illegitimate bastard of a favorite mistress (a slave woman, who refused to marry the King Charibert, she is still perceived as a potential threat. So, she takes vows at a nearby monastery for nuns, at Holy Cross. Due to terrible conditions resulting after a new abbess, Lebover is selected (what we call the Mother Superior), who violates many of the vows taken and the rules of Holy Cross as set forth by the founding member. Bitch is guilty of sexual immorality with a man who hides in her room and disguises himself poorly by wearing the same customary costume of the other nuns, she also has stolen and given away things that belong to the monastery enriching herself and family members while depriving the other nuns of subsistence level food, proper heat, bedding and even clothing to the point that several are at the verge of death. Clotild's leadership capabilities makes her the appropriate spokesperson for the nuns in need. These conditions have resulted in a divided camp, those who obey absolutely regardless of the deprivation they are living while others wish to appeal to church hierarchy and ultimately the area Kings. Clotild and others are initially hopeful that the dire situation will bring intervention but repeatedly they are censored for not accepting their lot with pure obedience and submission. Events spiral with greater and greater emotions and actions that none anticipate will lead to great stakes. Things go severely awry and ultimately conclude with her experiencing extreme attacks on her credibility and little compassion. This is a very intricate look at church politics, the true intentions of many that held power in that era and the utter powerlessness of women during this time. It was repeated over and over that women either married or became prostitutes or nuns. During the 6th century there was n0 such thing as a spinster or an unaccompanied woman in public. The boldness and strength these nuns showed demonstrate the great austerity of these times. Women were only valued for the children they produced or the prayers and other services the monastery offered to the community (which in this instance was handwritten copies of the liturgy for use in other Catholic churches). The first 100 pages were bogged down with introducing characters, the detris of community life and it took me more than 6 weeks to get through, many times I considered putting the book aside. I saw that others had also shared this viewpoint but urged readers to push forward that the story escalated in activity and interest, which it did. I was able to read the remaining 200 pages in 4 days. I'm glad I finished as my understanding of European history is astoundingly deficient and I recently learned of ancestry tracing back to a kingdom castle built in 1208 which remains today and is open to the public! This book though complicated with many characters opened my understanding of the era in fullness. Thanks goes out to Goodreads, the publisher and author, Marj Charlier for a free ARC to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joy Matteson

    If there's one thing we need now, it's brave stories of women of bygone years who stood up to forces of evil who never got their stories told in their lifetimes--even if they didn't all get the happy endings we wanted them to. I loved this story. Clotild is a nun in a monastery outside of Poitiers in the late 6th century. This is a period of upheaval for France--the Church is wrestling with deepening its roots into French religious culture of the period. You don't need to be a historical theolog If there's one thing we need now, it's brave stories of women of bygone years who stood up to forces of evil who never got their stories told in their lifetimes--even if they didn't all get the happy endings we wanted them to. I loved this story. Clotild is a nun in a monastery outside of Poitiers in the late 6th century. This is a period of upheaval for France--the Church is wrestling with deepening its roots into French religious culture of the period. You don't need to be a historical theologian to appreciate Clotild's story of bravery as she attempts to free herself and her fellow nuns from the oppressive abbess and her prioress, facing unimaginable treachery and stumbling blocks. Based on a true story of the Monastery of the Cross outside Poitiers, France, I was glad I picked this one up. Historical fiction fans, rejoice!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rajiv

    [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] Wow! I honestly cannot believe that this bases off on a true story. The Rebel Nun is a compelling tale of a group of nuns who rebel against the injustice of the church, and I enjoyed reading it. To begin with, the story was a little hard to grasp over the first few pages as the author introduces many characters. But once I got the hang of it, I could not put it down. The author sets the pace gradually and helps us get into the [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] Wow! I honestly cannot believe that this bases off on a true story. The Rebel Nun is a compelling tale of a group of nuns who rebel against the injustice of the church, and I enjoyed reading it. To begin with, the story was a little hard to grasp over the first few pages as the author introduces many characters. But once I got the hang of it, I could not put it down. The author sets the pace gradually and helps us get into the characters and the situations, and I rooted for Clotild throughout her mission. Clotild is a dynamic character and shines in the tale. The author writes the story compellingly, where you feel like you are with Clotild and the other nuns of the Holy Cross. She writes the characters wonderfully, where you immediately hate people like Lebover and Maroveus. I also enjoyed how she describes Clotild’s background and her relationship with Radegund and the other members. However, I was fascinated with her conversations with Alboin. Alboin is one of those mysterious characters who intrigued me from the first page. If the author ever writes a spinoff or a sequel to the tale, I would love to revolve around Alboin’s life. Interestingly, the book’s tone became more severe and graphic towards the end and impacted me towards the climax. The author also shocked me in some scenes, like what happens to Marion in the beginning or Justina later. The story is gripping until the end, and the author glued me to the pages during the trial scenes. While I enjoyed reading the story throughout, the last few pages made me admire it profoundly. Overall, “The Rebel Nun” is worth reading if you enjoy historical fiction with memorable characters.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    {3.5 stars} "'Perhaps you should think less and pray more.' I shook my head and dropped back down on the bench. Was even this champion of the Holy Cross now adopting the church's new attitude toward women? 'What would you say if I suggested you think less and pray more.' I asked. 'But I'm a m-... poet.' He was about to say 'man' but caught himself just in time." ------------------------------- "You will find few clergy these days who would support this monastery's continued independence. Especially {3.5 stars} "'Perhaps you should think less and pray more.' I shook my head and dropped back down on the bench. Was even this champion of the Holy Cross now adopting the church's new attitude toward women? 'What would you say if I suggested you think less and pray more.' I asked. 'But I'm a m-... poet.' He was about to say 'man' but caught himself just in time." ------------------------------- "You will find few clergy these days who would support this monastery's continued independence. Especially since the councils have declared your sex and its weaknesses make you incapable of judgment in these matters." ------------------------------- The Rebel Nun is the story of women in the 6th century. These women may be in a monastery but we learn quite quickly that many of these women did not willingly join the order because they were devoted to the Lord but due to their circumstances. Living as a nun was often a refuge from the life that may have been thrust upon them or that they may have had to result to due to poverty or lack of options. In the case of our main character Clotild, she was the bastard daughter of a king and simply put, a threat to his legitimate children. So she joined an order where her aunt was the abbess, when her aunt dies, she expects to be elected in her place. When she surprisingly is not, she is hurt and jealous. Quickly the order begins to run in a way that focuses on suffering inordinately 'for Jesus' but the truth may be more sinister. As she begins to discover the truth about the abbess and the religious leaders in charge of the order, she realizes that it is simply about power and control. She begins to try to rally her fellow sisters and use her connections to set things to right and the story follows their suffering and their journey to re-set the monastery to its proper place. The pace of the story is slow but thorough and you really see just how little women's thoughts and opinions were valued. As a Catholic, I struggled with the point of view the church had during this period with a focus on suffering and fasting of those at the bottom while the top revel in riches (not sure that that much has actually changed there... but I digress...). I was also surprised at how many of the women still believed in their pagan gods and just thought of the Christian god "another one." You'd have thought women in a monastery would be there to be so devoted to the Lord but that seemed to be quite the afterthought. I also found it quite frustrating how little the women supported each other and how often they jumped to jealousy and accusation of one another. This was a well written piece of historical fiction about a time period I wasn't familiar with before. Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elysium

    Clotild is an illegitimate daughter of Frankish King Charibert. After her father’s death, she is sent to a monastery called Holy Cross in 6th century Poitiers. It’s believed to be the safest place for her. When the previous abbess dies, Clotild is believed to be the next abbess. But instead, bishop Maroveus appoints Lebover to be the next abbess and life under her rule sets out to be a difficult one when she cuts food rationing drastically. Christianity is still a fairly new thing, and she has le Clotild is an illegitimate daughter of Frankish King Charibert. After her father’s death, she is sent to a monastery called Holy Cross in 6th century Poitiers. It’s believed to be the safest place for her. When the previous abbess dies, Clotild is believed to be the next abbess. But instead, bishop Maroveus appoints Lebover to be the next abbess and life under her rule sets out to be a difficult one when she cuts food rationing drastically. Christianity is still a fairly new thing, and she has learnt about herbs and traditional gods and goddesses from her mother and grandmother. Around this time the church has started removing women from any positions they held in the church. Because women are seen as “unclean”. Clotild has accepted Christianity and her life in the cloister, but little by little she starts to question the churches decisions and how they treat women. Many of the women are at the monastery to avoid unwanted marriage, bloodthirsty relatives or prostitution rather than their devotion to religious life. 6th century France is certainly not a place that is often featured. It was great to read something from Merovingian time. I was a bit hesitant towards the book since it’s set in a monastery, but I didn’t mind it at all. It didn’t feel preachy or boring at all. The bishops and kings weren’t interested in listening or believing what the nuns were saying. They just assumed Clotild was jealous of Lebover. So not much changed there… Just be more pious and obey men. No matter if you starve because apparently it brings you closer to heaven or something. My one problem was the romance plot which I thought was unnecessary. But other than that, I really enjoyed the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Hupe

    Thank you, NetGalley, Marj Charlier, and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read this book! Gregory of Tours discusses in book 10 of his History of the Franks about the daughter of a king, named Clotid who leads a rebellion at a nunnery. The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier takes Gregory of Tours’ account and gives us historical fiction from Clotid’s point-of-view. Clotid wants to be abbess of her monastery. She is devoted to her monastery but was raised in a completely different life. She wa Thank you, NetGalley, Marj Charlier, and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read this book! Gregory of Tours discusses in book 10 of his History of the Franks about the daughter of a king, named Clotid who leads a rebellion at a nunnery. The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier takes Gregory of Tours’ account and gives us historical fiction from Clotid’s point-of-view. Clotid wants to be abbess of her monastery. She is devoted to her monastery but was raised in a completely different life. She was raised by a healer and Pagan rituals and that part of her did not disappear once she entered the life of a nun. When her aspirations to be an abbess are destroyed and the women and bishop who took that away are abusing their priveledges. The bishop and the abbess start withholding food, wood, and blankets. Also, many items begin to go missing…then begin the whispers. They happen in secret, but as the situation gets more extreme the more Clotid becomes aware that it is time for change. I am here for this book! It is pretty well-known that Gregory of Tours loved to exaggerate and show himself in spectacular light. He wasn’t the only one, the Church loved controlling the narrative. So seeing this part of history from a woman’s point-of-view is everything. The monastery wasn’t for women who wanted to spend their life praying to God. It was for the women looking for a safe place to escape an unwanted marriage, those in domestic abuse situations, homeless women, those trying to avoid prostitution, and many more scenarios. Women didn’t have many options. They either became prostitutes, got married, or became a nun. I really appreciate that the author shows several examples of the limitations forced upon women. You see what happens when the Church gets REAL threatened by women in the 1400s…that is when you see the rise of Witch Hunts. However, this takes place in the 6th century but that doesn’t mean that misogyny isn’t a thing. Women have always been rising up, but their stories are written by men. While the first half of the story was pretty slow and the writing a little choppy, I was still hooked from beginning to end. It is the perfect book to read for Women’s History Month and just released on March 2nd, so be sure to pick it up! I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Trussell

    The Rebel Nun was a thrilling, exciting and informational read. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my style, but as I began to read I could NOT put it down. I didn’t realize, upon reading it, that some of the book was historically accurate and that Clotild, Basina, and some of the other vital characters were real individuals in the early 500s. I think this makes the story that much more interesting. There are so many aspects to this book that I loved. Clotild’s competing piousness to her pagan re The Rebel Nun was a thrilling, exciting and informational read. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my style, but as I began to read I could NOT put it down. I didn’t realize, upon reading it, that some of the book was historically accurate and that Clotild, Basina, and some of the other vital characters were real individuals in the early 500s. I think this makes the story that much more interesting. There are so many aspects to this book that I loved. Clotild’s competing piousness to her pagan religion and Christianity, her battle of self righteousness and humility, her fight to be a leader and not have self doubt, and her need to protect her sisters while still preserving her own sanity were all themes that drove the book forward. I think that Clotild’s character truly represented a woman who is fighting for independence but for all of the right reasons. Many of the characters in the book truly interested me such as Covina and Desmona. I feel that the characters were so realistic and relatable and each had their own distinguishable and admirable characteristics. This story really had it all: action, romance, women’s rights, historical aspects, and themes that outlast time and will always be relevant. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is a history buff- particularly for Medieval times, anyone who enjoys reading books with a religious spin, female readers, and those who like an action-packed story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was a unique and enjoyable historic fiction. I loved that it was based on a historic woman who stood up and spoke out at a time when women, nuns especially, were supposed to be quiet and subservient. Clotild was the daughter of a king and a slave, sent to a convent after her father's death to protect her from his wives and their children. When the bishops decided to star interfering at the convent and take much of the nun's power away from them because they were women, it resulted in the nu This was a unique and enjoyable historic fiction. I loved that it was based on a historic woman who stood up and spoke out at a time when women, nuns especially, were supposed to be quiet and subservient. Clotild was the daughter of a king and a slave, sent to a convent after her father's death to protect her from his wives and their children. When the bishops decided to star interfering at the convent and take much of the nun's power away from them because they were women, it resulted in the nun's near starvation and a suicide within the convent. Clotild decided that she could not sit by and allow things to unravel as they were, so she gathered together many of her sisters and defied the vows she had taken to strike off in to the world and try to attain justice and better living conditions for the women she shared her life with. This was a good historic fiction, and quite enjoyable. I love a story about a woman who doesn't do what men tell her to, It seemed a little slow at times, but there were enough twists and drama to keep me interested.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Buchta

    It took me about two weeks to finish this novel. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not going to force you to stay up late at night just to see how it ends. The Rebel Nun is something different and it was definitely a well-written and well-researched book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tessa Palfrey

    Quick synopsis: A band of nuns, led by our protagonist Clotild, rebel when their happy cloistered lives are turned upside down after the death of their beloved abbess. Her replacement is corrupt and in cahoots with a cartoonishly villainous bishop. The good news is, it was nice to read a book about a period in time that I rarely read about- so I learned many things about that era as well as about life as a nun, and the facets of religious life back then in general. So for that, I am glad I read t Quick synopsis: A band of nuns, led by our protagonist Clotild, rebel when their happy cloistered lives are turned upside down after the death of their beloved abbess. Her replacement is corrupt and in cahoots with a cartoonishly villainous bishop. The good news is, it was nice to read a book about a period in time that I rarely read about- so I learned many things about that era as well as about life as a nun, and the facets of religious life back then in general. So for that, I am glad I read the book. My favorite sections involved Clotild's mother and grandmother, and their paganism. However- there were things that just didn't work for me: 1. The writing, the dialogue- it felt like the further in the book I got, the more awkward it was. A lot of repetitiveness- so many chapters ended with some variation of, "Oh how I wish I knew how much worse it would get!" and if I had to hear about Basina and her indecisiveness one more time...... 2, The strange romantic plot line. 3. The protagonist- I just didn't find anything about her that made me root for her or her cause. For that matter, the other minor characters were pretty flat as well. It just made it hard for me to get behind the nuns' cause, especially when taking into account the misery they encountered when they left the monastery. How could they stick to their mission of trying to win back their cushy lovey cloistered lives when there was so much death and corruption and hunger all around them? It just seemed self indulgent. Again, this is based on a true story- so this storyline is not solely the creation of the author. There was some definite cognitive dissonance in my brain whenever I remembered that this book was based on history, as I found most of it just so unbelievable. It made the book hard for me to finish because I just wasn't invested in whether or not the nuns got their happy ending- because whether or not they did (no spoilers here)- it all seemed a little silly. Unfortunately, this book and I just did not click. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donna R Browning

    O!d story told from current point of view Seventh century story told in 21st century of view and written to appeal to current thinking. Feel like something is not quite grasped in this tale.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    This is an ARC Review. Many thanks to Blackstone and Edelweiss. I'm really struggling whether to rate this a 4 or a 5, so I'm calling it 4.5. I don't have too many complaints (as should be obvious by the following review), but I would have liked a little more information about Lebover. While I understand she wasn't the most important character, I was interested in her motivations and I feel like there was a lot left to explore with her character. Though, admittedly, I'm not sure how Charlier coul This is an ARC Review. Many thanks to Blackstone and Edelweiss. I'm really struggling whether to rate this a 4 or a 5, so I'm calling it 4.5. I don't have too many complaints (as should be obvious by the following review), but I would have liked a little more information about Lebover. While I understand she wasn't the most important character, I was interested in her motivations and I feel like there was a lot left to explore with her character. Though, admittedly, I'm not sure how Charlier could have given readers more information on her considering the book was written from Clotild's perspective and Clotild herself doesn't find much out about Lebover. This book was such a sucker punch of a historical fiction that I couldn't put it down. Charlier has created a beautiful story and seen to the reemergence of an important dialogue on the treatment of women in the Catholic Church. I was blown away. The story follows the fictionalized life of Clotild, a very real historical figure who led a rebellion at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in sixth-century Gaul. The fictionalization of her struggle and her conviction breathe such life into this historical character and draw her back to us from the obscure past to which she has been relegated for so long. Charlier must know that readers will find something special in Clotild and her fight, and so includes in her "Author's Note" both her research and lists of the facts vs. the pieces of the story that she fabricated for the novel. More historical fiction books should have this; it is absolutely invaluable. I was particularly struck by the skilled writing of certain passages in this book. The amount of sheer emotion Charlier manages to evoke within the first few pages is evidence of masterful ability. For example: "[T]he story does not begin or end with the bloody clash at the Holy Cross. It began when Christianity first swept across Gaul, and the church demanded the obliteration of the pagan rituals, shrines, and deities that had guided our tribes for centuries. It continued as the church declared women unclean, threw us out of the clergy, and denied us the right to sleep with the priests to whom some of us were married. [...] The story of our struggle will end only when our kingdom is no longer at the mercy of the patriarchy and the church, the matriarchy flourishes anew, and pagan traditions are again celebrated across the land with impunity." Are you hooked yet? Because I was. Charlier's historically accurate juxtaposition of the looming beast of the Church (that went so far as to suggest women didn't have souls!) and the women just trying to survive in its shadow is heartbreaking, enraging, and illuminating. Clotild's character as Charlier wrote her is a personification of the female in a fight for her life against an institution that not only devalues her, but hates her. In her fight to save her monastery and her sisters, Clotild realizes that there will never be a place for women in patriarchal ecclesiastical society, and turns again to the female-empowering pagan traditions of her youth, melding Christianity and paganism as many have done throughout history. Through this, and through the sisterhood she finds among her fellow nuns, she discovers her strength to stand against injustice. Through her rejection of organized Christianity, one could argue that Clotild becomes more "Christian" than the bishops, priests, and kings she fights against. One of my favorite passages, and another examples of Charlier's magnificent prose, is when Clotild is summoned to meet the villainous, and yet piteously subjugated, Mother Superior Lebover: "Lebover knelt in the front of the nave with her back toward me - a lump of dark humanity surrounded by a halo of altar candles." What a profound way of illustrating the discrepancy between the dark human drives that hide behind the mantle of a Godly creed. Other sections build upon this idea as well, such as when Clotild wonders (about a bishop): "[W]here was the love in his theology - the love that Radegund had extolled? Where was the joy in the creation? In the resurrection?" This bishop's motivation, as we see through Clotild's eyes, is pure human greed and ambition. This, really, is where organized Christianity has failed us. It quickly became a place for the avaricious and sinful to hide behind the power of religious doctrine largely written to further their own agenda. To this day, so many that follow the Church do not understand or embrace the simplicity and love that Jesus preached, nor do they want to. Clotild and her sisters suffer because of zealots like this controlling Holy Cross through thinly veiled hatred and intolerance. So they decide to do something about it. While Clotild's rebellion was ultimately a failure, and therefore recorded with disdain by male historians, the truth behind her actions reaches us even now through the veil of history and the continued discrediting of historical women. Charlier mentions, in her note at the end, that when researching and discussing the events with a (male) historian, he "rejected [the] theory of Clotild's motivations, suggesting that the concept of female independence and leadership is a twenty-first century phenomenon, and that no such ideas could have occurred to women in a sixth-century monastery." I think women readers will collectively roll their eyes at that. While men may have had the final say and written the "definitive" history of the event, we know in our souls what the truth of the matter must have been - women, struggling to live in a society built against them, finally had enough. It didn’t end in success for Clotild and her sisters, but it helped set the stage for the advances women - fighting tooth and nail - would achieve later in history and continue to achieve to this day.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Asheley T.

    I chose to read The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier because I have a huge interest in Medieval stuff. Whenever I find a book or any other media about this time period, I get really excited about it. I was thrilled to pieces when a beautiful hardcover copy of The Rebel Nun arrived at my house in exchange for a review. Prior to hearing about this book, I had never heard of Clotild or the big uprising that she led during the sixth century. Clotild was born into royalty, the daughter of King Charibert an I chose to read The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier because I have a huge interest in Medieval stuff. Whenever I find a book or any other media about this time period, I get really excited about it. I was thrilled to pieces when a beautiful hardcover copy of The Rebel Nun arrived at my house in exchange for a review. Prior to hearing about this book, I had never heard of Clotild or the big uprising that she led during the sixth century. Clotild was born into royalty, the daughter of King Charibert and a peasant. Clotild was taken to the monastery to live because it was dangerous for people like her during those times. When the King had children, it was expected that their life would be in danger as the mothers of the children would want to ensure that their child would ascend to the throne on the death of the King. Clotild seemed to take to her time at the monastery well, growing close to her relative the abbess. When the abbess died, she expected to take over the role. However, that did not happen and the quality of life decreased significantly for the nuns living in the monastery after a ton of harsh, new rules were instituted. This led to a rebellion after Clotild and the other nuns finally got fed up enough with their treatment. This is so interesting to me because it had to have taken a ton of courage. Women during this time had no power at all. Only the royalty-born women had some semblance of power, but it still was very little. Women were just not seen as respected and worthy. The character Clotild in this book gave a lot of thought to how things were deteriorating before she came to action. She had to know she may not win and lives could be lost. But she and her sisters, the other nuns, were starving and continuously stifled. They weren’t allowed to even have conversation. They were watched almost constantly. They were verbally belittled. Certainly Clotild thought that she deserved better treatment than this because of her parentage (even though she was a bastardis). But I think that ultimately, the miserable conditions were at the center of the rebellion. This book is good, really good. I enjoyed the deep dive into a time that isn’t often explored in historical fiction. It was easy for me to visualize the small world of the convent, with its dark, dank, smelly, cold rooms and hallways and kitchens. It was easy for me to visualize the misery on the faces and in the bodies of the women living there. This was my favorite part of this story. It is also obvious that it is well-researched. I think that this works two ways, though. For someone like me, who is very very interested in the politics and details of the time, I loved it. But the attention to detail did slow down the narrative and it actually took me a lot longer than normal to finish this one. I found that if I tried to digest too much at once, I felt confused about names and lineage. I could get through a chapter or two at a time, and then I would have to put it down and do something else so I could think about what I had been reading. There is a beautiful family tree and map at the beginning of the book to help out with all of the similar names and marriages, children, and bloodlines. I spent a lot of time looking at the family tree, in particular. I think this one will appeal to lovers of a more “literary” type of historical fiction. I think it best to take it slowly, too. Read a little bit and let it all soak in, and then go back for more. Beautiful book, very interesting story. I enjoyed reading it. Oh! And the Author’s Note is glorious-I recommend reading it before starting the story. I received a hardcover copy from the publisher via HFVBT in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Blackstone Publishing!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Poptart19 (ren)

    3.5 stars Well-written historical fiction based on true events; a survival story of some brave, not oft remembered women who stood up for themselves in the face of humiliation, mistreatment, misogyny, danger, & intimidation. [What I liked:] •The art is beautiful (the front page, at the start of chapters, the family tree sketch, etc.), and it fits with the botanical theme of the story. •Easy to read prose, and at times it’s even lovely. •It’s nice to have a novel set in the early Middle Ages (6th C. C 3.5 stars Well-written historical fiction based on true events; a survival story of some brave, not oft remembered women who stood up for themselves in the face of humiliation, mistreatment, misogyny, danger, & intimidation. [What I liked:] •The art is beautiful (the front page, at the start of chapters, the family tree sketch, etc.), and it fits with the botanical theme of the story. •Easy to read prose, and at times it’s even lovely. •It’s nice to have a novel set in the early Middle Ages (6th C. CE) in Europe, especially one featuring women characters. I do like later medieval era settings, but there are many more of those. •There is a strong sense of place & time depicted, especially of the natural world (nature is very important to the MC’s identity & self awakening). •The shift towards pushing women out of leadership in the Roman Catholic Church is an interesting subject to me, and while few details are known of how/why it happened it’s cool to read about it in a novel from the perspective of some of the women who were caught up in the difficulties of that transition. •I also enjoyed exploring the other complexities of how religion & culture influenced each other that this book highlights: the tension between coexisting Christian & pagan beliefs, the varying shades of gray of syncretism, the competition between different sects of Christianity (specifically Arianism vs. Roman Catholicism), and the power struggles between the church leaders & the kings. [What I didn’t like as much:] •There is a bit too much background summary at the beginning of the book, and at certain other points, for my taste. It would feel smoother if these details were blended into the narrative more subtly instead of resorting to info dumping. •The villains are a bit one-dimensional, & I had a hard time fully grasping the reasons for how mean & cruel they are. Maroveus is envious, okay...but he still has so much more power than the women at Holy Cross; why does he feel such a need to crush them completely? Lebover’s motives are a bit more nuanced & understandable, but I really don’t understand why Justina was so mean; what did she stand to gain by creating enemies of the sisters? It was never explained. •Clotild does a whole lot of blaming herself for everything. I think there’s a fine line between acknowledging one’s flaws & failures, and becoming a martyr to the cause of everyone’s misery. Sometimes her attitude came off a bit patronizing, since she thinks it’s her job to save everyone from everything. By the middle of the book I was tired of her self-pitying, self-flagellating inner monologue. •I’m glad Clotild got her happy ending, but it was a bit rushed in the epilogue. The explanation of how she rebuilt her life was clear as a sequence of events, but not *what* her purpose and mission were that led her there. Since all throughout the book she’d been hinting at how she found this amazing life purpose & destiny, I’d have liked to see more of what that was to her besides gardening, & more of what that meant to her! •A minor quibble, but there are inconsistencies with measurement terminology. Distance is described in miles, leagues, & kilometers. Leagues & miles were terms that existed in the 6th C, but kilometer is a modern (late 18th C & later) measure of distance, definitely an anachronism the editors should have caught. [I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katya

    Big thanks to Blackstone Publishing and Netgalley for the eARC! I struggled a bit with this one, especially at the beginning. Once things got going (read: unbearable for Clotild, our narrator) the story picked up and I began to feel swept along with it, but until then I plodded miserably along for 100 slow, grim pages. I am just not sure who the intended audience for this book is. It feels quite niche - feminists with a taste for historical fiction centered around organized religion and its pratf Big thanks to Blackstone Publishing and Netgalley for the eARC! I struggled a bit with this one, especially at the beginning. Once things got going (read: unbearable for Clotild, our narrator) the story picked up and I began to feel swept along with it, but until then I plodded miserably along for 100 slow, grim pages. I am just not sure who the intended audience for this book is. It feels quite niche - feminists with a taste for historical fiction centered around organized religion and its pratfalls, perhaps? (There must be more of us than I thought!) While I love a historical fiction novel about a strong female character, the relentless misery portrayed in the book and the almost-cartoonish villainy of the church made for an unsatisfying read at times. Charlier hewed close to the actual events the book is based on, which I appreciate (few flights of fancy here) but at times I did wish for some more action to alleviate the unhappiness Clotild and her fellow sisters experienced on a daily basis. And, dear reader, it was grim. The first 100 pages of the book are spent reminiscing about how fun and light things were at the monastery under Radegund (although we are never shown this joy, only told of it) and detailing how miserable they were under Lebover, the new abbess installed by the villainous bishop. It took me a long time to get through this (relatively brief, 260-page) novel because I could only read one or two short chapters at a time initially as the story was so bleak. Charlier did a great job portraying how miserable Clotild was, I suppose, because I was ready to riot as well. Once things got going, I enjoyed the story a great deal more. I felt for Clotild and her sisters, and I wanted their quest to succeed, even though I knew it wouldn't - history, as well as some rather heavy-handed foreshadowing, provided spoilers. Still, I rooted for them as they traveled, appealed, and ultimately fought for their freedom and right to exist in peace and comfort. This a time period that is rarely written about in historical fiction, and especially from the perspective of a nun, and for that I found it fascinating. Charlier had clearly done her research, and is very respectful of the time period. It shows. I particularly appreciated the lengthy author's note where she takes care to distinguish fact from fiction and describe the effort that went into the history. However, reading the book did feel a bit like Charlier had a personal agenda - it was hard to distinguish whether the feelings of animosity for the church genuinely came from Clotild or if Charlier allowed her opinions to inform Clotild's story. Ultimately, I do recommend giving this one a read. If anything, it will shed some light on a time period not often portrayed in historical literature. Just don't expect a lighthearted romp, and prepare for some heavy religious overtones.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ManOfLaBook.com

    For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: https://www.ManofLaBook.com The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier is a historical fiction story, centered on Clotild who led nuns in a rebellion against the patriarchy of the church. Ms. Charlier is a published author and journalist Clotild is the bastard daughter of a king. During the sixth-century, at the age of 13, she enters a convent which is the only place she can be guaranteed safety from the king’s former wives. During her time, Clotlid enjoyed the For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: https://www.ManofLaBook.com The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier is a historical fiction story, centered on Clotild who led nuns in a rebellion against the patriarchy of the church. Ms. Charlier is a published author and journalist Clotild is the bastard daughter of a king. During the sixth-century, at the age of 13, she enters a convent which is the only place she can be guaranteed safety from the king’s former wives. During her time, Clotlid enjoyed the relative safety, comradery, and purpose of being a nun. When the abbess dies, Clotlid – as well as the other nuns – believe that she is the natural choice to run the famous Monastery of the Holy Cross. The bishop of Poitiers, however, blocks Clotlid’s appointment so he can take control of the Monastery along with its holly relic, a splinter from the “True Cross”, while making the nuns’ lives difficult. Clotlid and several other nuns escape and start a dangerous journey to appeal to their royal relatives for help. The bishop refuses to back down and the nuns find themselves, for the first time, fighting armed men. This book was very well put together. The narrative was tight, story was very interesting, characters were fleshed out, and the writing was fantastic. Unlike many other works of fiction, or historical fiction, The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier looks kindly upon medieval monasteries. Many girls and women didn’t have many choices, even, and sometimes especially, if they came from royalty. Nun, wife and mother, prostitute where usually the only options many women had. And sadly, in many places in the world this is still true. The descriptions of the positive aspects of the nunnery, the peace of mind and protection it afforded to women really have a huge impact on this story. It explains why many of them were willing to risk life and limb for the institution. Even though this novel takes place centuries ago, it is a very contemporary story. Clotild sees the few rights and privileges she has as a woman erodes in-front of her as the Catholic Church changes it’s dogma to disenfranchise women, and is powerless to do anything about it. Instead of sitting back, she takes matters into her own hands, hoping to make a change. This book told a strong, dramatic story in a very skilled way. It was a sad, but inspiring novel, of the struggle of women to fight against a religious / societal system, changing to specifically to disenfranchise them.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Marj Charlier's The Rebel Nun is a swiftly moving, absorbing read. Based on a little-known historical event, when a Sixth-Century nun led her spiritual sisters to rebel against growing patriarchal control of the Christian church. Clotild, the central character, had hopes of being elected abbess of the female monastery of the Holy Cross. When the (male, of course) bishop awards the title to someone else, despite a tradition of the sisters electing their own abbess, Clotild grows increasingly dire Marj Charlier's The Rebel Nun is a swiftly moving, absorbing read. Based on a little-known historical event, when a Sixth-Century nun led her spiritual sisters to rebel against growing patriarchal control of the Christian church. Clotild, the central character, had hopes of being elected abbess of the female monastery of the Holy Cross. When the (male, of course) bishop awards the title to someone else, despite a tradition of the sisters electing their own abbess, Clotild grows increasingly direct in challenging the changes to her monastery and to the faith in general. Clotild, at least as depicted by Charlier, isn't the Sixth-Century nun you might expect. It's not just that she rebels, not just that she leads her sisters on a multi-day trek to appeal to Clotild's royal relatives and church higher-ups, not just that she strikes a bargain with an angry warrior who has his own reasons for hating the bishop making life miserable at Holy Cross. She's also a polytheist—"wedded" to Christ, but still worshiping ancient goddesses and engaging in rituals to honor them. In other words, Clotild isn't just a thorn in the church's side, she's a heretic. The Rebel Nun is one of those works of historical fiction that brings a present-day sensibility to the past. Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't. Here, it's mostly effective, though at moments I found myself wondering if her reasoning or language really reflected her times. I also appreciate the depiction of a sea-change in the Christian church as the faith became increasingly patriarchal. The faith has had so many different guises over the centuries, but the Sixth Century changed the faith for the next fifteen-hundred years to follow, and still dominates many current religious practices and assumptions. Read this book if you're looking for an imperfect, but gutsy heroine, if you're interested in church history, or if you're interested in trying to perceive the world through the zeitgeist of other eras. You'll find Clotild makes for very good company. I received a free electronic ARC of this title from the publisher for review purposes; the opinions are my own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    4.5 Stars! This book is incredible! It is moving, unique, heart-wrenching, heartwarming, and very interesting! Whenever I picked up "The Rebel Nun", I was whisked back in time to the sixth-century, and found myself drawn in from the first page to the last. This is the first book I have read by Marj Charlier, and I can't wait to read more! She seamlessly blends history and historical fiction, and the story she brings to life truly jumps off of the page. I can only imagine the amount of research sh 4.5 Stars! This book is incredible! It is moving, unique, heart-wrenching, heartwarming, and very interesting! Whenever I picked up "The Rebel Nun", I was whisked back in time to the sixth-century, and found myself drawn in from the first page to the last. This is the first book I have read by Marj Charlier, and I can't wait to read more! She seamlessly blends history and historical fiction, and the story she brings to life truly jumps off of the page. I can only imagine the amount of research she must have done, as each and every detail felt authentic to the time period. Clotild is such a courageous, intelligent, brave, and kind woman who wants those around her to feel safe and protected. As she begins to realize that the oppression and maltreatment of herself and the other nuns at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Poitiers will not improve, nor stop, she realizes something must be done. As she encounter those trying to stop her at every turn, and unexpected allies, what ensues is absolutely heartbreaking at times, yet, very hopeful in others. Told from Clotild's perspective years in the future, you feel like you are truly sitting in a room with her as she tells the story, and you can see it unfold right before your eyes. I did feel that the pacing of the book was little bit slow from time to time. However, even with that being said, it did not take away from my enjoyment of the book in any way. I feel everything was done for a specific reason, and the slower pacing was counterbalanced quite well with scenes that truly had me on the edge of my seat with how quick everything moved. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this book! It had me turning the pages to see what would happen next, and I can't even begin to imagine what many of the women in this book had to endure. Yet, they persevered with kindness, strength, and heart...and I was so moved. Thank you so much to Blackstone Publishing for the ARC of this book, it is incredible! All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sasha (bahareads)

    "We opposed much more than each other. Our skirmish represented much bigger battles: the war against women in the church, a disagreement over the proper location for relics, a conflict over the role of bishops in female monasteries. And nothing had been settled, although much had been ruined." Rebel Nun highlights the plight of women; as the main character, Clotild, expresses multiple time throughout the book that the three choices for women were prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Clo "We opposed much more than each other. Our skirmish represented much bigger battles: the war against women in the church, a disagreement over the proper location for relics, a conflict over the role of bishops in female monasteries. And nothing had been settled, although much had been ruined." Rebel Nun highlights the plight of women; as the main character, Clotild, expresses multiple time throughout the book that the three choices for women were prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Clotild herself is a complicated character, throughout the book you can see her motivations change and her reasoning for why does what she does shifts. BUT I enjoyed that, it shows real human emotion and actions. Clotild does care for her sisters and wants the best for them. However Clotid can have too much a pity-party for herself sometimes and I found that to be annoying. Clotild's shifting views of Christianity and 'paganism' and the syncretism that emerges from her was fascinating. I do wonder how many people back then held on to their old ways or mixed them with Christianity. Charlier does a good job of showing the complexities of religion and culture. The pacing of the story is slow but fast. Time seems to fly while the characters stay in the same place and plight for a long time. I would have liked to see a definitive time keeping going on then just mentioning the weather had once again changed. The writing keeps you wanting to read more. I could not put the book down! Charlier has a poetic style to her writing. I wanted justice and righteousness to prevail. As a reader, you can feel the experience of the nuns, the cold, the starvation, the feelings of hopelessness and of hope. You feel the anger of the nuns as they just want to live a simple life without interference but the church, the thing that they love, is standing in their way. I enjoyed learning more about the Roman Catholic Church pushing women out of roles of leadership, seeing the views of some of the women were caught up in the difficulties brings it more to life. The ending of the book was a bit rushed after the slow build up. I did enjoy the ending though. I appreciated Marj Charlier having a thorough author's note at the end of Rebel Nun where she talks about differing opinions on the account of the historical event, views on the concept of female independence (and how it may be only 21st-century phenomena), and fact vs fiction in her book. Rebel Nun is a well researched book. Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for the ARC! All quotes made in this review may not reflect the final copy of Rebel Nun.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Neva Kay Gronert

    "As a woman, the only choices I had were marriage, prostitution, or the cloister." Illegitimate daughter of one of numerous petty kings of 6th Century Gaul, Clotild enters the Monastery of the Holy Cross when she is thirteen. Although she has limited options to escape the murderous inclinations of her constantly feuding relatives, she grows to love the monastery, and becomes a leader of the other nuns. Then her beloved abbess dies, and the monastery is subject to the whims and avarice of new lead "As a woman, the only choices I had were marriage, prostitution, or the cloister." Illegitimate daughter of one of numerous petty kings of 6th Century Gaul, Clotild enters the Monastery of the Holy Cross when she is thirteen. Although she has limited options to escape the murderous inclinations of her constantly feuding relatives, she grows to love the monastery, and becomes a leader of the other nuns. Then her beloved abbess dies, and the monastery is subject to the whims and avarice of new leadership they did not choose. Desperate for survival, the nuns feel forced into rebellion against their greedy abbess and the corrupt bishop who installed her. The machinations of religion at the time were particularly interesting to me: How "Christian" rulers were permitted atrocities; how The Church began to subjugate women and bar their participation in ministry; how politics bled into theology. Charlier adroitly contrasts Clotild's beliefs in her new Christianity with the worship of Natura that Clotild learned from her mother and grandmother. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." "As it once was, so it is now. Women were here and everywhere. They tied the hands of warriors and stopped the horde They will free their bonds and leave the enemy." The Rebel Nun is based on an historical rebellion, incorporating many actualities and some necessary speculation. Charlier writes very well, and Clotild's voice is sure. The world of the 6th Century is carefully but simply drawn, and I noticed no jarring anachronisms. Charlier's accomplished use of foreshadowing propels the story along. I enjoyed this book very much. 4 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. As a woman in 6th century Europe, you had three choices: marriage, prostitution, or the cloister. Marriage wasn't necessarily "safe" in that even if you were lucky enough to not be used as a bartering tool to form an alliance between families and your husband didn't beat you mercilessly, it still meant endless child-bearing, often resulting in the deaths of the mother, child, or both. Prostitution was (and still i I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. As a woman in 6th century Europe, you had three choices: marriage, prostitution, or the cloister. Marriage wasn't necessarily "safe" in that even if you were lucky enough to not be used as a bartering tool to form an alliance between families and your husband didn't beat you mercilessly, it still meant endless child-bearing, often resulting in the deaths of the mother, child, or both. Prostitution was (and still is) a highly dangerous profession for myriad reasons. When faced with those two options, it is easy to see why many women became nuns for the safety and security provided by the cloister, not necessarily for their piety. The daily lives of the nuns of The Monastery of the Holy Cross are uprooted when the local bishop anoints an unexpected predecessor upon its abbess' death. Together the bishop and the new abbess slowly strip away the rights and "luxuries" previously given to the nuns...ya know, little things like safety, warmth, and food. As nuns, they try to learn how to live with these changes but when their larders get dangerously low and there is a threat to their sacred relic, they hatch a plan. I enjoyed diving into this little known pocket of history and was so glad to see a new historical fiction release that isn't set during WWII or is a mythological retelling. Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

  24. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Based on a true story, Clotild is the illegitimate daughter of a king and his concubine. When she comes of age, she is cloistered in the Monastary of the Holy Cross. She loves the monastery and the camaraderie between the sisters. However, she is torn between her religious beliefs and the pagan beliefs she learned from her mother and grandmother. The beloved Abbess dies and Clotild believes she will be the next Abbess, however the cruel Bishop Maroveus announces Sister Lebover to be the next Abb Based on a true story, Clotild is the illegitimate daughter of a king and his concubine. When she comes of age, she is cloistered in the Monastary of the Holy Cross. She loves the monastery and the camaraderie between the sisters. However, she is torn between her religious beliefs and the pagan beliefs she learned from her mother and grandmother. The beloved Abbess dies and Clotild believes she will be the next Abbess, however the cruel Bishop Maroveus announces Sister Lebover to be the next Abbess. Clotild is very upset and finds many flaws in Sister Lebover. As her power grows, her sins become more obvious. She takes items meant to be used in trade and gathers them for herself. Soon the cupboard is empty and the sisters are starving. The church, led by its male contingent, has declared war against women in the church. As the male-led church placed more restrictions on the “unclean” females, Clotild’s anger grew. Her unhappiness leads to rebellion, and soon she gathers numerous nuns, and they begin their trek by leaving the convent and going first to find Bishop Gregory to plead their case, then she proceeds on to her uncle, who is a king, to further make her case. She is rejected by both men. The story gets remarkable when the women are returned to the convent and the revolt takes on a violent aspect. Charlier ends her story with an epilogue that brings the reader back to Clotild as an older, more mature woman. She clears up the importance of the other characters and ties up some loose ends.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    “The story of our struggle will end only when our kingdom is no longer at the mercy of the patriarchy and the church, the matriarchy flourishes anew, and pagan traditions are again celebrated across the land with impunity.” The Rebel Nun is a unique and gripping novel, one that explores a rarely-covered sliver of history. Clotild is the bastard daughter of a Merovingian king living as a nun at an abbey called Holy Cross. Throughout her cloistering, the Church has become increasingly male-dominate “The story of our struggle will end only when our kingdom is no longer at the mercy of the patriarchy and the church, the matriarchy flourishes anew, and pagan traditions are again celebrated across the land with impunity.” The Rebel Nun is a unique and gripping novel, one that explores a rarely-covered sliver of history. Clotild is the bastard daughter of a Merovingian king living as a nun at an abbey called Holy Cross. Throughout her cloistering, the Church has become increasingly male-dominated, with the sisters losing more of their autonomy as the years pass. The outwardly pious Clotild harbors an inner affection for the pagan beliefs of her mother, and her frustration with the Church drives her farther from her holy vows. She eventually leads a rebellion of her fellow nuns, petitioning for the respect and dignity they deserve as not only brides of Christ, but as human beings. Charlier has done an astounding amount of research, drawing on an extremely limited source biased against her central character. The way she fleshes out a complex family tree and political environment is admirable, and I appreciated her empowering take on 6th century gender politics and religious structures. [4/5: An interesting work that centers women on the margins of early medieval history, and a great example of historical fiction that will resonate with contemporary audiences.] Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Conner

    The Rebel Nun follows Clotild, a nun with pagan roots and royal blood, as she leads a rebellion against the Medieval Church. During a time when the Church was starting to strip women from power and equal standing, Clotild attempted to return The Holy Cross to the safe haven it once was for her and her Sisters. I find stories like this so powerful! More and more we talk about how the history we learn in school is written largely from only one perspective. So when I pick up a book like this, that t The Rebel Nun follows Clotild, a nun with pagan roots and royal blood, as she leads a rebellion against the Medieval Church. During a time when the Church was starting to strip women from power and equal standing, Clotild attempted to return The Holy Cross to the safe haven it once was for her and her Sisters. I find stories like this so powerful! More and more we talk about how the history we learn in school is written largely from only one perspective. So when I pick up a book like this, that tells the story of a nun rebelling against the Church as it was forsaking women, I rethink how women fit into history. While I loved the story and subject matter, I did find it to be a slow read at times. By the time I got to the climax of the story it had lost a bit of its impact. I would love to have seen the epilogue developed further and have it tie back into the main story. I became invested in the characters and wanted to know more about their journeys after the rebellion. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and think it would make an excellent book club pick. The story and author’s notes led to so many great discussion points—I found myself constantly wanting to talk to someone about life for women in Medieval France. I already love historical fiction and this was a new time period for me. It left me wanting to broaden my horizons and seek out more. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for my first ARC (Squee!)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Spreen

    Clotild, the illegitimate daughter of a king, lives in the monastery of the Holy Cross in medieval Gaul (6th century). Like many women of the time, she has entered the monastery to escape the only other choices available to her: risk-filled childbearing, or prostitution. As a gifted natural leader, Clotild is on track to become abbess. However, when the current abbess dies, a corrupt local bishop installs another nun to suit his own political purposes. The new abbess, Lebovar, is insular, glutto Clotild, the illegitimate daughter of a king, lives in the monastery of the Holy Cross in medieval Gaul (6th century). Like many women of the time, she has entered the monastery to escape the only other choices available to her: risk-filled childbearing, or prostitution. As a gifted natural leader, Clotild is on track to become abbess. However, when the current abbess dies, a corrupt local bishop installs another nun to suit his own political purposes. The new abbess, Lebovar, is insular, gluttonous, and cruel. She embezzles the assets of the monastery to benefit herself, steadily gaining weight while the nuns starve. One commits suicide. Clotild is singled out for punishment because the bishop hates her and Lebovar feels threatened. The monastery’s very survival is in jeopardy. Clotild, ever self-doubting, decides she has no choice but to act. The Rebel Nun is based on a true story. Clotild actually existed and led a rebellion of her fellow nuns in an attempt to oust Lebovar and save the monastery from the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. This is also the story of Clotild’s grappling with her conflicting spiritual beliefs and life's purpose. Charlier has meticulously researched this period of medieval European history and crafted a rich, believable story based on the life of a nearly-forgotten hero. The author notes are a trove in themselves. Highly recommend this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I received The Rebel Nun as part of a Goodreads giveaway. In 6th century Gaul, times are changing: Christianity is centralizing and standardizing, and under this new regime, women religious are losing any semblance of equality and standing they had. And yet, the Monastery of the Holy Cross stands firm, sheltering noblewomen who have turned their lives over to God in lieu of unwanted marriages or vicious relatives. Clotild is one such woman, illegitimate daughter of a king and a pagan slave. Sent I received The Rebel Nun as part of a Goodreads giveaway. In 6th century Gaul, times are changing: Christianity is centralizing and standardizing, and under this new regime, women religious are losing any semblance of equality and standing they had. And yet, the Monastery of the Holy Cross stands firm, sheltering noblewomen who have turned their lives over to God in lieu of unwanted marriages or vicious relatives. Clotild is one such woman, illegitimate daughter of a king and a pagan slave. Sent to the monastery, she finds a measure of peace and fulfillment alongside her sisters, despite the pagan influences in her own upbringing. That all changes with the death of the old order and the implementation of a harsh abbess, under whose watch the monastery devolves into a miserable existence. Clotild and some of her sisters decide to protest the unjust treatment in the increasingly misogynistic halls of power, but in doing so set into motion an irrevocable chain of events that will seal their fates forever. This was an excellent read. I love early medieval history--it was such a vibrant time--and it's so underexplored in historical fiction. Clotild was an excellent heroine, one who was imperfect and torn but still noble in her goals. The era was so chock full of misogyny and brutality--it's terrible to read about but like all good history and historic fiction it makes you reconsider things from a different perspective. Highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linda Edmonds cerullo

    Well-written historical fiction based on the life of Clotild, a sixth-century nun who, due to disagreements with the bishop who appointed a new abbess when Clotild felt the job should be hers, organizes an uprising with the other nuns in an attempt to take charge of the cloister. The rebellion is quashed in a most violent fashion and Clotild and a fellow nun face charges due to their involvement. This book is a reminder that there was a time when women had few choices in life. Marriage meant chi Well-written historical fiction based on the life of Clotild, a sixth-century nun who, due to disagreements with the bishop who appointed a new abbess when Clotild felt the job should be hers, organizes an uprising with the other nuns in an attempt to take charge of the cloister. The rebellion is quashed in a most violent fashion and Clotild and a fellow nun face charges due to their involvement. This book is a reminder that there was a time when women had few choices in life. Marriage meant childbirth and that could lead to death in medieval times. Women had almost nothing in the way of earning a living (except for prostitution) and so wealthy women would sometimes enter the convent as a way of living a somewhat peaceful life. However, as in most things in those days, men controlled even the all-female, cloistered environment through priests and bishops who really had little regard or respect for females. The jealousy, cliques and power moves made by the bishops and the other nuns could sometimes lead to quarrels, anger and, as in this case, rebellion. Marj Charlier admits that there was not a lot of information about Clotild, but she has done a remarkable job of making this courageous woman come to life. Excellent wrap-up at the end setting straight what was true and what was a bit of poetic license. All in all a great read and a reminder that even in the Dark Ages, some women refused to be considered "second class".

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wisconsin Alumni

    Marj Charlier MA'80 Author From the author: Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By the end of the sixth century, even this is eroding as the church begins to eject wom Marj Charlier MA'80 Author From the author: Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun is based on the true story of Clotild, the daughter of a sixth-century king and his concubine, who leads a rebellion of nuns against the rising misogyny and patriarchy of the medieval church. At that time, women are afforded few choices in life: prostitution, motherhood, or the cloister. Only the latter offers them any kind of independence. By the end of the sixth century, even this is eroding as the church begins to eject women from the clergy and declares them too unclean to touch sacramental objects or even their priest-husbands. Craving the legitimacy thwarted by her bastard status, Clotild seeks to become the next abbess of the female Monastery of the Holy Cross, the most famous of the women’s cloisters of the early Middle Ages. When the bishop of Poitiers blocks her appointment and seeks to control the nunnery himself, Clotild masterminds an escape, leading a group of uncloistered nuns on a dangerous pilgrimage to beg her royal relatives to intercede on their behalf. But the bishop refuses to back down, and a bloody battle ensues. Will Clotild and her sisters succeed with their quest, or will they face excommunication, possibly even death? In the only historical novel written about the incident, The Rebel Nun is a richly imagined story about a truly remarkable heroine.

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