Four girls, all named Guinevere, come of age in a convent in wartime.
“Of the Guineveres, Gwen was the prettiest, and she understood this as fact, not opinion.” It is Gwen who teaches the other three—Win, Ginny, and Vere—to use berries for lipstick, and she who devises the plan for their escape from the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration. Inspired by a movie in which a chorus girl popped out of a cake, the girls hide themselves inside the chicken-wire–and–tissue-paper hand on a parade float, planning to bust out once it’s parked overnight. The failure of the plot is the beginning of their friendship, as told by Vere. She never locates the story in a specific place or time, nor does she identify the war that rages beyond its borders, but she brings the convent and its inhabitants to life with great verve: the pinch-faced nuns, the alcoholic priest, and the troop of girls in their care. There are The Specials, “who still had contact with their parents, who received letters and birthday cards and postcards”; The Sads, “whose parents had died suddenly and sometimes violently: in fires, in automobile accidents, in suicides”; The Poor Girls, “taken away…from their destitute families”; The Delusionals, who believe they are going home any day now; and the Guineveres, bursting with life and nascent sexuality in these rigid confines. When four comatose soldiers are delivered to the Sick Ward of the convent, each of the girls adopts one of the boys and falls in love with him.
Domet’s (90 Days to Your Novel, 2010) energetic prose, institutional setting, Christian fabulism, and fervidly wacky plot—revolving around the ability of the comatose to get a hard-on—will appeal to fans of John Irving.