Black Narcissus

by Rumer Godden

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you want to be thoroughly depressed, this is the book for you!

Five nuns arrive at a former harem in the Himalayas that has been gifted to them. A group of brothers has already tried & failed to establish a Catholic stronghold there. While the nuns (lead by the strongminded Sister Clodagh) wonder about this and Mr Dean, the local representative of the British Empire, strongly tries to warn the nuns off, but they are undeterred. But then the insanity starts…

Rumer Godden is one of my all-time favourite authors, but even though I have given this 4★ it would be the novel of hers I have liked the least. The high rating is for the excellent story structure & evocative language, as well as the occasional flash of humour;

“There are several ways,” he said shyly, “in which I’m trying to improve myself. I have a great many books and records and now I’m learning to play golf. Do you know golf, Sister? The English think it’s a very serious game. I was going to learn a much more serious game called cricket, but you need twenty two people…”

(I have to say, The Little General enchanted me!)

The whole novel ripples with madness and repressed sexual tension. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the read, but I did appreciate the book.

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