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THE REBEL NUN by Marj Charlier
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The Rebel Nun
by Marj Charlier
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Hardcover, AudioBook, & eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction
Marj Charlier’s 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 women’s 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.
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‘The Rebel Nun is a boldly imagined story of one early medieval woman’s struggle against the societal forces that constrained her. It draws on historical sources that briefly mention — and condemn — the insurrection that two noble nuns led within their abbey, in Poitiers, in 589. On the basis of this sparse information, Marj Charlier imagines the incident from the perspective of one of these nuns, the noblewoman Clothild, and embeds these events within the larger story of Clothild’s life. The result is an engaging and thought-provoking tale.’ –Samantha Kahn Herrick, Associate Professor of History, Syracuse University
‘Marj Charlier takes an obscure sixth-century tale and turns it into a stunning story of a nun caught up in the misogyny of the early Christian church. Led by Clotild, a king’s bastard daughter, a group of nuns attempts to rescue their monastery from the all-male church hierarchy. Extensively researched and rich in historical detail, The Rebel Nun tells of a time when women were chattel, when priests questioned whether females had souls. Charlier’s artfully written account of Clotild’s struggle to save her medieval sisterhood from the dominance of kings and bishops is a perfect novel for today’s women.’ — Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author
‘Vividly imagines one of the most fascinating events to occur in sixth-century Gaul, bringing into focus the complexity of the early centuries of Western Christianity as the Church struggled to define its positions on clerical celibacy, the role of women, pre-Christian traditions, and its relationship to secular power. Scholars have long been fascinated with Gregory of Tours’s account of how a rebellion of nuns from the monastery of the Holy Cross in Poitiers supposedly resulted in acts of murder, plunder, and unplanned pregnancies. It is a moment that has been calling out for a writer to do it justice in a work of historical fiction, but which feat no one has dared to attempt — until now. Marj Charlier’s The Rebel Nun brings the sights, sounds, and smells of this event and its aftermath to life in a richly imagined story that is firmly rooted in equal parts rigorous historical research and inspired, creative imagination.” –Dorsey Armstrong, PhD, professor of English/medieval studies at Purdue University, and lecturer for The Great Courses (The Medieval World, The Black Death, and others)
‘What could lead nuns to armed rebellion?…This thoughtful imagining of the underlying causes and characters involved in the revolt centers on Clotild, the leader of the insurrection…Charlier carefully constructs a narrative that positions Clotild, a pagan at heart despite her outward piety, as a reluctant revolutionary who pushes for fairness in a Christian world increasingly dominated by men. With power available to so few women, Clotild dares to imagine freedom, despite its cost.’ –Booklist
‘The Rebel Nun is a gripping, well-told story of women fighting against a church and society dominated by men who are determined to defeat them in body and spirit. A great tale that will immerse you in a world so different — and not so different — from our own.’ –Philip Freeman, Fletcher Jones Chair of Western Culture at Pepperdine University, author of Saint Brigid’s Bones
‘The Rebel Nun is a wildly original, suspenseful account of a group of nuns in medieval France who must endure hardships and treachery from both outside and within their walls. It feels both historically authentic and startlingly contemporary, and I loved every word of it.’ –Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady
‘The Rebel Nun is a gripping tale of heroism and audacity in the least likely of guises — a renowned cloister under the heel of the medieval church. With meticulous research and in exacting detail, Marj Charlier brings to light the remarkable exploits of Clotild, who leads her fellow sisters on a daring escape that culminates in bloody revolt, and a place in history.’ –Denise Heinze, author of The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew
‘The story of a community of women in crisis and the power they found through their will to save themselves, The Rebel Nun tells the fictional truth behind the historical rebellion of the Holy Cross nuns in 589 CE, as recounted in her latter days by one of the rebellion’s leaders, Clotild … Rich in facts and foreshadowing, the historical novel The Rebel Nun finds in the nuns’ rebellion, and in Germanic tribal paganism, an inspirational morality tale and historical precedent for modern women to connect with their own powers, no matter the stakes.’ –Foreword Reviews
‘The Rebel Nun is a well-written window into the life of a sixth-century royal bastard and the changing landscape of holy power structures. Charlier writes a strong voice for Clotild, with vivid descriptions of a daily life that brings readers along into her world. The research shows, and Charlier does an excellent job of seamlessly integrating the historical record with her own fiction.’ –Historical Novels Review
‘A startling look into a world I never imagined visiting — a sixth-century nunnery, where one bride of Christ only a generation away from paganism breaks her vows of obedience to the church’s male hierarchy and makes it her mission to battle the corruption of bishops oppressing the sisters of the Holy Cross. A well-wrought yarn reflective of historical fact.’ –Darryl Ponicsán, author of Eternal Sojourners
Please excuse any grammatical errors, or typos. I have done my best, but in reality I am just reader. and will leave the writing to all the incredible authors out there.
This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.
This is a non spoiler review, because you as reader need to read this book. Also, I feel sometimes I have in the past gave away to much of the plot line. This has diminished the pleasure for would be readers.
This is one riveting story of Clotild, a nun in the late sixth to early seventh century, who led a rebellion along with sister nuns against the church.
What’s even more incredible is that it based on true events
A time when Christianity first swept through Gaul, trying to erase the stain of paganism. The early church is also experiencing some restructuring as certain factions become more divided in their beliefs in some of its Christian doctrines that are being developed.
The story starts with a prologue that introduces the reader to an older Clotild, living a quiet life well after the revolt. She writes about the events that led up to and followed the revolt, as a means of countering the official version written by Bishop Gregory of Tours.
In 588 Poitiers, Not all women noblewomen seek the traditional route of existence and some are given no choice. Royal monasteries offer an alternative to marriage and the ability to avoid the dangerous perils of childbirth.
Clotild, the granddaughter of Clovis and bastardis of Charibert I, the monastery of the Holly Cross offers her tranquillity safety from the long reaching arm of her political family. Clotild has formed a strong bond with the other sisters in the cloister, all together they make up a close nit family. The monastery is a joyous place under the direction of Radegund and her successor, Agnes.
As the sisters are in morning from the recent passing of the Agnes the Abbess. An unplanned arrival of the Bishop Maroveus at Holy Cross is met with resentment. He arrogantly burst through the halls and announces that the new Abbess position will be bestowed to the unworthy Sister Lebover.
Once in charge Sister Lebover, direction is disastrous, and those living within the monastery suffer the effects. Bitter with disappointment Clotild, along with several sisters take things into their own hands. A rebellion is sparked, when the bold sisters do a forbidden act, and leave the closure of the monastery. They strike out on a quest to plead their case and throw themselves on the mercy to Bishop Gregory. Without any results Clotild then moves onto one of the one of territory kings King Guntrum, who happened to be her uncle.
As the power of Catholicism gains ground over the Arianism sector of Christianity the rights of women in previous held religious position were stripped. They we seen as “Unclean” and were treated as such. Just like so many others during this time, Clotild has excepted the Christian faith, but still hangs on to her Pagan beliefs from her mother’s side. The story opens as the elderly Clotild recants her story, to set the record straight. Her natation is seamless as she leads the reader through the events before, during, and after the events of the incredible event.
These courageous women are beautiful depicted and their struggles are awe-inspiring. This may be an historical fiction, but it’s a tale that resonates with contemporary themes.
Meticulously researched the author does an exceptional job in bringing this meaningful story of these women to life. A meaningful thought provoking book that I loved from beginning to end.
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.
Blog Tour Schedule
Thursday, April 15
Review at Two Bookish Babes
Friday, April 16
Excerpt at Madwoman in the Attic
Wednesday, April 21
Review at Crystal’s Library
Thursday, April 22
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Monday, April 26
Guest Post at Books, Ramblings, and Tea
Tuesday, April 27
Guest Post at Novels Alive
Wednesday, April 28
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Monday, May 3
Review at Passages to the Past
Friday, May 7
Review at Bookramblings
Monday, May 10
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews
Enter to win a copy of The Rebel Nun by Marj Charlier!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on May 14th. You must be 18 or older to enter.