I love the Abbotsford convent, and have gone there for events, performances, markets and even just breakfast. Maureen McCarthy is a great storyteller who knows how to create stories that draw the reader in. In truth, I read a large portion of this book on one sunny afternoon.
The Convent is the story of four generations of women who all have connections to the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. It starts with Peach, present day youth who gets a job working in a café in the convent. She is contacted by Ellen, a grandmother she doesn’t know, the mother of her mother, Cecilia. Cecelia was adopted as a baby and never had the inclination to contact her birth family. And finally, there is the missing mother of Ellen who was raised in the Convent back when it was still inhabited by nuns.
Whilst I generally enjoyed the book, I felt that there were a few parts of the book that didn’t really work for me. One was Peach’s sister, Stella. Peach is looking after her after she has had some kind of a breakdown, however for some reason, I took this to meant that she was mentally disabled in some way. As the book goes one, Stella is an increasingly important character to help Peach find her way and it is quite clear that she is an extremely capable young lady who went off the rails a bit, but I still couldn’t shake my initial thoughts of her.
I must say, however, I do love a book which steps into the past like this, especially with familiar settings.