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Study for Obedience – Sarah Bernstein

Study for Obedience – Sarah Bernstein

I listened to the audible version of this novel (I discovered it because it was short listed for the Booker prize last year (2023)).

Here’s the blurb …

A haunting, compressed masterwork from an extraordinary new voice in Canadian fiction.

A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him. 

Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs – collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies ‘just beyond the garden gate.’ And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother’s property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one might be capable of doing.

With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance. Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation.

I think listening to it was a particularly good idea as it is narrated by a young women in a way that feels like she is telling the story to you. I liked her voice and her thoughts about herself, the world and her place in the world. As the novel progresses, I wondered if I should be taking her words at face value. In the end she might be an unreliable narrator or have a different view of the world than everyone else. I don’t want to give too much away – it’s a short novel, so you can read it yourself if you want to know.

A review.

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