The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier
Marj Charlierís 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 womenís 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 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 ex-communication, 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.
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.
Published: Blackstone Publishing (March 2, 2021)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
About the Author
Marj Charlier began her writing career at daily and mid-size newspapers before joining the Wall Street Journal as a staff reporter. After twenty years in journalism, she pursued her MBA and began a second career in corporate finance. The Rebel Nun is her first historical novel, and her eleventh published novel.
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