Monday, December 6, 2021

Black Narcissus

Black NarcissusBlack Narcissus 
by Rumer Godden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this novel for #RumerGoddenReadingWeek2021 
“You have to be very strong to live close to God or a mountain, or you'll turn a little mad.”
This novel is about a group of Catholic nuns who go to a remote house in the Himalayas to establish a convent for their order. They are already living close to God (they are nuns) and now they are also close to a mountain and the heart of this story is their struggle over whether it will turn each of them a little mad.

I found the style of this book very easy to read and it reminded me of Barbara Pym (whose work I love).  It was a old-fashioned in that anything racy happened off the page. We see the story through the eyes of multiple characters, but we never get very deep into what makes each of these people who they are. The Superior Sister is the only one we get any background about. The story is compelling though, and I kept turning pages to see what was going to happen to them all. Godden does a marvelous job of creating the place.

“Towards four o'clock the dew fell, and she smelled a gust of sweetness from the roses and a paleness showed in the sky to the East. It was cold; the wetness was cold on her hands and she felt her skirt dragging around her ankles... the light spread, there were long lines of cloud in the sky and presently above them the outline of the snow peaks appeared, cold and hard as if they were made of iron; they turned from black to grey to white while the hills were still in darkness.
Then the forest came, mysteriously out of the darkness, and the light moved down, turning the trees dark blue and green, and the terrace was full of a swimming light that was colourless and confusing... Then she looked up and saw that the Himalayas were showing in their full range, and were coloured in ash and orange and precious Chinese pink, deeper in the east, paler in the west.
The people called it 'the flowering of the snows”
Overall this was a very enjoyable novel and I look forward to reading more of Godden's work. 


  1. I see that you have read this and your review encourages me to find a copy and read it. We saw the 1947 film and it would be good to see its inspiration. I usually prefer to read the book first though.

    1. I will need to track down the movie now that I read the book.

  2. I love Rumer's descriptions too. In my book it was the was the beach, the nature of the waves along the Coromandel coast and the flowering trees nearby that she captured so beautifully.
    The flowering of the snows sounds like something I'd like to see myself one day :-)

    Thank you for joining in Rumer Godden Reading Week.


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