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Study for Obedience

A novel by

Shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize
Included in Granta's Best of Young British Novelists 2023

For readers of Shirley Jackson, Iain Reid, and Claire-Louise Bennett, a haunting, compressed masterwork from an extraordinary new voice in Canadian fiction.

A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him. 

Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs - collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog's phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies 'just beyond the garden gate.' And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother's property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one might be capable of doing.

With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance.
Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Sarah Bernstein's Study for Obedience is at once a languid and sometimes harrowing journey into the truth of human animals living in a small community and the need for a woman to give voice to the strange and beautiful cruelties of life. This is a unique novel that is primal and eerie, where language creates silence and vivid images reflect a kind of earthiness where our most intimate selves live. The wide praise for Bernstein's remarkable writing is well earned." - Asale Angel-Ajani

"Study for Obedience is a fully absorbing, beautiful and sinister portrait of becoming and unbelonging, of violence held in time and place, that enriches the reader's habitation of the world's intelligibility and its darkness." - David Hayden

"Sarah Bernstein manages to combine cool, perfectly weighted prose with an extraordinary emotional sensibility." - Fiona Mozley

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