Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein


Bookseller Review by Elle: 

A woman travels to a strange and sparse rural town to devote herself to her brother’s household. While she attempts to settle into the community, the townsfolk become suspicious as unusual and disturbing things begin to happen around her.

Quiet yet haunting, the author lulls you into a false peace while simultaneously building a sense of dread. As the tension is slowly built, an uncomfortable truth is revealed and the reader’s judgement is tested. A compelling and thought-provoking read. 

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A woman moves from the place of her birth to a remote northern country to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has just left him. The youngest child of many siblings – more than she cares to remember – from earliest childhood she has attended to their every desire, smoothed away the slightest discomfort with perfect obedience, with the highest degree of devotion. The country, it transpires, is the country of their family’s ancestors, an obscure though reviled people. Soon after she arrives, a series of unfortunate events occurs – collective bovine hysteria; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; the containment of domestic fowl; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed particularly in her case. What is clear is that she is being accused of wrongdoing, but in a language she cannot understand and so cannot address.

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