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The Convent

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  618 ratings  ·  70 reviews
A breathtaking novel that follows the hidden and intertwined lives of four young women as they face difficult, life-changing, impossible choices during the 1920s, 1960s, and the present

'I woke up with a feeling about today,' Stella says dreamily. 'Something truly amazing is going to happen.' 'To us or to the world?' I say. 'To you.' 'To me?' I laugh. 'Nothing ever happens
Paperback, 408 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Allen & Unwin (first published September 26th 2012)
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  618 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Maureen McCarthy is one of the few authors whose protagonists are generally aged in their late teens or early twenties, embarking on university or finding their way in the first years after leaving school. I started university about the time Queen Kat, Carmel & St. Jude Get A Life was published (it has been republished this year by Allen & Unwin) and loved the book, quickly devouring the rest of her backlist soon after. It has been a while now since I have read anything by the author but ...more
☼♄Jülie 
I really enjoyed the easy pace of this book, it was almost like being an observer. As a family historian it really appealed to my 'need to know' instincts and I believe the fact that the story was based on real events and circumstances made it all the more compelling. Wonderful descriptions of the Convent and surrounds made it really come to life. I found myself pacing my reading in order to prolong the experience.. Life within the confines of the convent is vividly and realistically portrayed w ...more
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult-book
I’m sticking my neck out to declare that this is Maureen McCarthy’s best novel. It’s written in her typically expansive style with memorable characters that are brought together by their association with a Melbourne convent which has now been converted into commercial and arts and crafts spaces. From 1915 when Sadie’s three year old child Ellen is taken away one morning from her home by a policeman and a social worker to the present, when Perpetua (Peach) is found by Ellen, her grandmother and h ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women of all ages
Based on her mother’s own history as ward of the state at the Abbotsford Convent in Victoria, the author tells the story of three generations of women whose lives have been affected in different ways by the convent’s historical past. Ellen, who at age four became a ward of the state living at the convent, after her father had her mother declared an unfit parent; Cecilia, Ellen’s only daughter, who at age nineteen took her vows and joined the secluded order as Sister Anunciata; and 19-year-old Pe ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
It took me a few goes to read this book but it was well worth it. I have never visited the Convent but did so on my final day of reading. Maureen’s writing allows the reader to be there with the characters and share in their journey. I was pleased with the way Maureen didn’t shy away from the difficulties of religious life, the unfairness of the lives of the “fallen women” but still treated the Christian spirituality with respect.
Lauren K
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

The Convent is a fascinating exploration of (fictional) young women who were associated with the Abbotsford Convent. Inspired by McCarthy’s family history, The Convent is a young adult novel which will appeal to readers young and old. The author’s mother was raised in the Abbotsford Convent as a ward of the state in the 1920’s and for a long time she yearned to inquire into the past, but didn’t actively research the institution until after her mother’s death.

I’m a big fan of Maureen McC
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I really enjoyed this book. A little disappointed by the ending, but only a little. I just wanted to know more (or perhaps I was waiting for a big bang or something? not sure) and it did leave me thinking deeply and wondering about some of the characters, but that isn't always a bad thing and often how we see life from our own perspective. (I think I've decided I'm a bit of a sticky beak and I really wanted to know some things about some characters and it just didn't eventuate so I felt like the ...more
Pam Saunders
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I live near the Convent where this story is set, so I have also visited the coffee shop that Pearl, the main character, works in. I have walked the Convent grounds but never been into the building. I am now keen to go back and look again for this book was a beautiful blend of building history and the lives of those who lived there. It could have been a sentimental read but it wasn't. A blend of past and present, the values and beliefs of each time not clashing but each dealt with respectfully.

Jul 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Not bad. Kinda boring, but not a horrible read.
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
really great book!!!! 10/10 do recommend
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
My mother gave me this book to read and I had it sitting in my room for over 6 months before I attempted to read it. I knew it was important to her because it describes the convent she lived at during the 60’s which is the time she stayed there. But other than general complaining about the years she was there and how it was a hard time she has never ever described what it was like, however to this day she will say that when it comes to the nuns there are some who were fantastic and others who we ...more
Rachel Lavinia
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I don’t want to rate this book badly because it’s simply not the genre I would usually read. I however did it enjoy it, and took a liking to the characters. I believe that the writing was powerful because it was able to evoke emotion out of me for characters that aren’t even real. This is usually very hard to do.

There were small details that were left as loose ends or promises of something that could happen later on which I don’t believe any first book should do even if it has been intended as p
This book has a slow start and I found it hard to get into. I was also getting confused about the characters and the time periods because of all the jumping around between the generations and it didn’t seem to flow well to me. Although I know nothing about nuns and how they lived, then and now, I found the story to be kind of interesting, but I couldn’t warm to any of the characters. I also didn’t think there was any real closure at the end of the book and I felt many things were left unresolved ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I love Maureen McCarthy's writing, it tends to focus on character rather than action and be very frank and real and insightful, which is exactly the kind of writing I like. I can't stand those kind of books where the writing is terribly slick, polished and contrived, as though the author's trying very hard to be deep and clever. I really love many of M.McC's books and expected to love this, but I was a bit disappointed with it. I found it hard to get into and although I enjoyed it well enough wh ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Young adult women
This book is brilliant.
At first I read the blurb and thought The Convent was another boring history book. But rather, I was mightily surprised at the amount of beautifully written history bound in a delicate story of four different colourful lives, all connected to the convent, where their family history lies.

The Big Five:

1. What makes this book good?
A - This book is good because it is an intriguing story that touches on the lives of four different women at different times in their lives, each i
Aussie Owned and Read Owned and Read
I have to be honest, I have no idea what made me pick this book up and buy it in the first place, but I can assure you I’m really glad I did! I’ve never read anything by Maureen McCarthy before, but I do believe I will be hunting down every single book she has ever written now.

Firstly, how cool is the main character’s name? Peach! I mean, come on…that is awesome. Even though at times I wanted to pull her out of the book and slap her around for being so frustrating and stroppy, I had to pull back
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australian, teenage
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Quite enjoyable, well written, a few too many incidental details that needed more development to make them worth inclusion in the storyline. Or maybe I should just realise that life is like that - things aren't necessarily neat and tidy. I guess we all have preferred eras to read in, and the 1960s/70s aren't my favourites. I'd have preferred to explore more of Sadie's story, because its less familiar, and difference makes for interest to me. That said, the idea of generations of women in one fam ...more
Jan 24, 2016 added it
Maureen McCarthy begins her wonderful new novel by introducing us to four women, Sadie, Edna, Cecilia and Perpetua (or Peach), all from one family and all of whom have been affected in some way by the Abbotsford Convent.

Peach is at university and has a part-time job at the Convent Cafe. While her much-loved parents are overseas, she is looking after her younger sister and dealing with her friends’ lives and dilemmas, as well as recovering from her own broken romance – the usual growing up issues
It's always a risk reading a novel that flicks between time periods. Sometimes, the novelist literally loses the plot or fails to tie the various threads together, or you get invested in one part. But I think Maureen McCarthy pulls this off. It's been a few years since I read this (I had a physical edition that my mum threw out because she thought it looked crappy brb crying), and so I picked up on things I missed the first time (mostly sexual things tbh, like references to handcuffs and pleasur ...more
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Convent is a book that takes you back and forth on a gentle roller coaster ride of life. The Catholic way of life from the early 1900 s right through to the present day rang true. The story of 4 generations of women make choices that result in choices being made for them. The torment of having and losing children is a general theme throughout the story. Sadie loses her child Ellen at the age of 3. Ellen is placed in a home for abandoned children. Ellen then grows to become the mother of Ceci ...more
The story of four generations of women, the morales of the times and how what society thinks is right at one time is abhorred in late years. Strong women characters who must deal with the society and religious pressures of their times.

Starting in 1916 when Sadie, an unmarried mother, has her daughter Ellie taken from her and declared a ward of the state where she lives at the Abbotsford Convent. Ellie marries and has a large family. Her only daughter Cecilia enters the Convent as a nun where she
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it
This was one of the books my school required all year 11 students to read this year. At first I thought I was going to really hate it as I read the blurb and saw that it had nuns in it. I'm not a religious person and since my school tends to do a lot to do with religion, I was expecting the convent to be a boring book on how great god is. However whe I started reading it, I found that it was really quite enjoyable.

I liked the way the story was written in a disjointed manner as it made me want t
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Maureen McCarthy was inspired to write this book as her own mother was raised in the Abbotsford Convent as a ward of the state in the 1920’s and although ‘The Convent’ is fictional, I feel she has created a fascinating story based on three generations of women who are connected to The Abbotsford Convent. The story jumps around quite a bit between the different characters and years – and not always in order, so I recommend if you are going to read it have some time up your sleeve. I found a coupl ...more
Kate Sturzaker
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was a great read by an equally fantastic writer. The story-line is interesting and original and explores the lives of 4 different generations. I felt that sometimes I didn't want to read Cecilia's life in the Convent but I guess these chapters gave the story more reality and character. All of the characters are easy to connect to but the story-line wasn't always exciting and there were a few loose ends at the conclusion of the book. I'm not sure if this was because we were supposed to ...more
Julie Cohen
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2014
Ugh. One of the more irritating books I've read in a while. Separated into different stories following different generations of women, this book has an uneven quality that just could not be reconciled. The stories set in the past were actually reasonable, but the story ostensibly set in the 'present' was populated with one dimensional characters that I just could not find enjoyable to read. One could say that perhaps they were annoying to me because they had a particularly 19 year old approach t ...more
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was simply amazing how four stories could get written and each so different and beautiful. I give Maureen McCarthy lots of credit for writing such a wonderful story, I loved Peach and I grew to understand Cecelia's motives of joining the Abbotsford Convent and why she chose to leave the religious life.
The themes were just so powerful I actually felt very emotional like I had an insight into the reality of life from all perspectives that entered the Convent, it was also a great tool for
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Last year I heard Maureen McCarthy speak at an event at school and she mentioned that she was an 'artist in residence' at the Abbotsford Convent. When I went to the convent for breakfast the other day I was so pleased to see the finished product on sale!
It is really good, moves quickly and has at least 5 major plot lines. The story jumps easily across a century, with the same recurring Melbourne suburbs tying it all together.
McCarthy writes young characters really well. I found a few old fashio
Kristy McRae
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this one in the YA section of the library....still not sure if that's where it should be classified, but I really enjoyed it. A fascinating multi-generational story centered around a convent--it was so interesting to learn about the practices of the nuns during the various time periods. Also a bit scary at times, reading about the lives the girls (who had been relegated to the convent schools & the "care" of the nuns) were forced to lead. The choices each female character made, and h ...more
Elizabeth Worts
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interwoven story of Sadie who had her child Ellen, taken from her by the police to be placed in the care of the nuns. Ellen who bore nine children - only one daughter Cecelia, whose religious vocation was a triumph for Ellen to avoid the hardships she had suffered as a wife and mother. Cecelia's time in the convent and her subsequent renouncement of her vows and birth of her daughter Perpetua, Peach, who she gave up for adoption. The story goes full circle with Ellen finding her granddaughter an ...more
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Maureen McCarthy, the ninth of ten children, was born in 1953 in country Victoria. She has worked as a teacher in Victorian secondary schools and has written scripts for television and educational films. Her film credits include 'Skipping Class', he award-winning documentary, 'Eating Your Heart Out', and the SBS mini-series, 'In Between', which was later adapted inot four novels by Maureen. Her la ...more
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