The Sacrament

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

This is a very well written book. It is thought provoking and interesting. I did find that it is a little hard to follow. There was not punctuation to indicate if the thoughts were said aloud or were internal. There were a lot of flashbacks. The plot of the book is very timely with today.
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The author has a unique style that I loved. The story is dark and thrilling, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I highly recommend this book!
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Poignant, surprising, haunting, gloriously atmospheric and ultimately deeply haunting, Olaf Olafsson has written a dark, dark, dark and yet profoundly compelling story of the present on a dangerous collision course with the present. The secrets in this novel yield deadly consequences.
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I have been thinking of The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson since i finished it two days ago and I fear that I may not be able to do it justice with my review. This was a wonderful book. I was at first slightly confused as the story is told in flashback form but this was the perfect format for this very moving story. 
Sister Johanna must travel into her past to bring peace to her present. She starts a journey to Iceland to meet someone from her past. She is not sure why this person will speak only to her but she does not want to relive the circumstances of her first visit to this small parish in Iceland. Throughout her journey she reflects on the past and at the end she is able to find peace with the choices she has made throughout her life. 
This story reflects on challenges that we face everyday and our responses to them. In some ways I was able to relate to the conclusions that Sister Johanna comes to. Sometimes simple choices we make can change our lives forever.
Cardinal Raffin has progressed through the church at the same time Sister Johanna does. He is a constant throughout her life that she is never able to escape. Are his intentions to be cruel as she sees them or is he really trying to help her see the strength within herself. 
I am in awe of this story, both the writing and the style in which it is written. 
I highly recommend this book as a great read for anyone. It is inspiring and thought provoking. But mostly it is a really great journey. I will definitely be reading more from Olaf Olafsson. Thank you for a lovely story.
I also want to add that the author tells a heartbreaking story but does not go into any graphic details of the characters desires or even misdeeds. I feel that sometimes the graphic details that authors include are not truly necessary and sometimes take something away from the end product. Thank you again
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Sister Johann has been called to Iceland to investigate a crime. It is a crime of alleged sexual misconduct between a priest and some of the young boys.
She is chosen because when she was young she had a friend that was from Iceland and taught her the language. 
After a thorough investigation  Sister Johann knows he is guilty. However, none of the children or their parents will go with her to have it documented officially. 
What's more the old priest knows her dilemma and taunts her. 
This is a story that takes current events and weaves it into a interesting and spellbinding book. The characters are interesting and have unique personalities. 
Definitely recommended.
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When I started the book, I recognized that the author had a different style and technique for telling the story.  After that adjustment, I was able to finish the book.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Harper Collins Publishers for an advanced copy of The Sacrament.
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The Sacrament is the story of Sister Johanna Marie, a nun who is sent to Iceland to investigate a possible sexual abuse charge against the Church. As she travels there, she recalls her time at school as well as her early years in the Church.

This book is a difficult one to review. On one hand, there was a lot that I appreciated. The prose is lovely and thoughtful, the plot is intriguing, and I'm always a sucker for a good story set in Iceland. However, there was also a lot that I struggled with throughout the book. I disliked the lack of quotation marks. It made it difficult to differentiate between internal character thoughts and conversations with other people. I also disliked that the chapters bounced around the timeline without any sort of time indicator in the chapter heading. A date and location (or even just the date) at the start of each chapter would have made reading this book a lot easier! I also wasn't particularly fond of Sister Johanna. She's a sad, self-doubting character for much of the book, and I wonder if that affected my perception of her narration. I felt very disconnected from her when I wanted my heart strings to be tugged by what she had gone through. 

Overall, this book wasn't for me, but if you enjoy thought-provoking stories with a bit of mystery, this might work for you! 

Thanks to Olaf Olafsson, HarperCollins Publishers, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!
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Alternating primarily between present day and the 1980s, The Sacrament follows Sister Johanna Marie as she recalls her time investigating allegations against the Church at an Icelandic primary school in the 1980s. When the school's Headmaster, Father August Frans, falls to his death from the church bell tower during the investigation, his death is ruled a suicide. But decades later, new information from an eyewitness has emerged, and Sister Johanna must race back to Iceland as the truth is finally revealed. 

What I liked: I loved Páll's character and the dynamic that he had with Sister Johanna. I also enjoyed all of the flashbacks to the 1960s when Sister Johanna (then Pauline) was in school, and the events leading up to her decision to take her vows. 

What I didn't like: I admittedly struggled with this book for many reasons. The writing style was disjointed and very difficult to follow. This was compounded by the alternating time frames of the narrative, which were not denoted through chapter titles, headers, or any other change in font. I often had to double check when and where the story was taking place. While the story eventually picked up pace and I adjusted to the writing style, overall I did not enjoy this book.
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This was a fascinating mystery with a wonderfully unique protagonist. The author clearly knows the tricks of the trade. I can’t wait for a film/stage adaptation. This will be the perfect winter read!
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A nun called back to investigate priest child abuse an excellent tense heart wrenching thriller.This a is an author whose books I will be reading recommending, #netgalley#harpercollinsecco.
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Thank you Net Galley for the free ARC. Interesting mystery.A nun is called to Iceland to investigate suspected abuse at a catholic boys' school, but there is more in her history that draws her to this crime. Good reading!
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I loved the setting of this book and the main character. It was a good solid Nordic mystery . I will read more by this author. 
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book
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A quiet, intriguing story set in Reykjavik, The Sacrament is more about the catharsis of its protagonist than the investigation of sexual abuse allegations.

The story follows Sister Johanna as she returns to Iceland to probe allegations reported in an anonymous letter of sexual abuse at the Catholic school. Sister Johanna is chosen to go to Reykjavik because she speaks Icelandic. We follow her from her time when she was just Pauline, a young college student in Paris, to her mysterious, inconclusive investigation in Iceland. 

The non-linear sequence of events of Sister Johanna’s life gave me some difficulty, but this style afforded an interesting insight into her psyche. Her sexuality caused her to have an existential crisis, for which she joined the sisterhood, running away from it instead of confronting it, and also suffering the bullying of a superior. The story is compelling with both halves of the story: the sexual abuse investigation contrasted with Sister Johanna’s ambiguous motives. Redemption is the theme here, but redemption at what cost?

The writing is beautiful and concise, and often the bleakness of inner turmoil or the beauty of self-discovery is reflected in the descriptions of the landscape. 
A deep story with an interesting twist. Many thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
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This has an interesting story line.  I was intrigued and it made for a quick read, although, the back and forth between time timelines made it hard to follow as my copy didn't have titles for the chapters.  I really like how the ending wrapped everything up and came together. I would recommend this book to my friends.
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Page turner featuring a Nun and references to the ongoing Priest/child abuse scandal.  I really enjoyed this book except the progression that jumped around in different decades without clueing the reader in.  It really isn't necessary to confuse the reader in this way.  Other than that, the book is well written, good character description, and it rings true on the area of homosexuality in the Catholic Church and Society as a whole during this era(s?).
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WOW.  Once I started this book I could NOT put it down.  Although it was was incredibly in tense and detailed, it was was well worth reading.  It is narrated in the first person by Pauline, first as a young girl growing up and then Pauline turned Sister Johanna, a nun in the Catholic church.  The chapters skip back in for the between the current day, the past when Pauline was in college and the recent past where Sister Johanna was investigating a sex abuse charge against a priest at a Catholic school in Iceland.  The books transitions very smoothly between the three time periods, easily flowing through Sister Johanna's thoughts during in each time period and what is going on in her life during each time.  None of the events that take place are easy for her to deal with yet her grace, dignity and faith get her through everything that is thrown at her by her superiors and the other people she has to deal with.  She loses a great deal in her life yet holds her head high and carries on with pride. She investigates the sex abuse charges against grade school boys as best she knows how, appointed really only because she knows the Icelandic language and because of a secret the bishop has held over her most of her life. There is a somewhat shocking twist at the end which I did not see coming.  This in an amazing story, beautifully crafted with perfectly chosen vocabulary--perfect description of the scenery, plot and character's thoughts and actions.  I would love to read more from the author.  Fabulous book.
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Sister Johanna Marie, a middle-aged French nun, speaks Icelandic. This she learned from a roommate at the Sorbonne many years ago: a roommate with whom she fell in love and whose presence drove her into the convent. Although she never made her feelings known, she has been hounded for decades by her bishop, now a cardinal, for his perceptions of her feelings, and twice he has emotionally blackmailed her into investigating accusations of child abuse by priests. The second time, sent to Reykjavík because of her knowledge of the language, the nun is emotionally tortured for several reasons: she wonders what's happened to the Icelandic girl and whether she should try to find her; she frets over her failure the first time the bishop recruited her for this task; she finds being officially thwarted at every turn by her superiors and the parents and children involved; and, as becomes evident only late in the book, she pushes this investigation too far. 
What also becomes clear only in the last half of the book is that there are two timelines in her travel to Iceland. The second trip, which comes into focus only slowly, is years after the first, and comes about because her presence is requested by a (now grown) child she met briefly during the old investigation. The timeline shifts between the two trips are not at all clear, and I do think this confusion weakens the reader's ability to appreciate the facts being developed. 

The nun is insecure, not overly likable, and not particularly wise, and the story is told entirely from her point of view. She feels her life may have had no meaning, and the reader may agree with her, although there is a surprise ending that gives some evidence that she may leave the world a better place. Still, she sees God in her life only when she faces the evil she finds, and I think that's awfully sad for a religious.
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Fascinating and difficult book.  Timelines keep changing but it all comes together in an exciting  and uncompromising conclusion.
Very relevant  to the current problems with the Catholic Church and the  position of the nuns  role today.
I was  fascinated--couldn't put it down!
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