BLACK NARCISSUS by RUMER GODDEN.
In the days when it was the General’s ‘harem’ palace, ladies with their retinues and rich clothes could be seen walking on the high windy terraces. At night, music floated out over villages and gorges far into the early hours. Now the General’s son has bestowed it upon the disciplined Sisters of Mary.
Beginning work in the orchards and opening a school and a dispensary for the mountain people, the small band of Sisters are depended for help on the English agent, Mr Dean. But his charm and insolent candour are disconcerting. When he says bluntly ‘This is no place for a nunnery’, it is as if he already knows their destiny . . .
- Back cover Blurb
The sisters left Darjeeling in the last week of October.
- First Sentence, Chapter One
She was as sharp as Sister Honey was sweet, but it was not that; it was the way her eyes seemed to narrow and glint as if she were going to strike you, and her teeth made her look as if she could give a sharp bite, and the frightening still way in which she talked.
- Random Moment, Page 113
MY THOUGHTS ... Oh dear! How to begin?
Perhaps by saying that though it doesn't happen very often I actually preferred the 1947 film starring Deborah Kerr.
As to whether I'd have preferred the book more if I hadn't have seen the film so many times ... who can say.
As it was I found the narrative wandering, the character development poor, the tension nothing like that of the film.
An OK read at best. I just found it underwhelming, to use Niece #1's expression, a bit, well, meh.
Materena Mahi, champion professional cleaner and best listener in all of Tahiti, is usually the one solving the problems. But right now she's that close to throwing her daughter Leilani into the street. 'It doesn't matter what I do,' she confides to Mama Teta, to Cousin Rita, to Mama Loana and to the Virgin Mary Understanding Woman, 'it's always the wrong thing. I'm going taravana!' And if that wasn't enough there's a boy on the horizon. Or so the relatives are saying.
When everything around her is changing, and the traditional Tahitian rules no longer seem to be enough, Materena realises it's going to take more than the Welcome into Womanhood talk to deal with the next generation of Mahi women...
- Back Cover Blurb
When a woman doesn't collect her man's pay she gets zero francs because her man goes to the bar with colleagues to celebrate the end of the week and you know how it is, eh?
- First Sentence, The Day You Came To Me
When secrets come out at the wrong time people can be hurt. That's why Materena is going to reveal a few secrets to her daughter today because today is the right time.
Random Moment, Page 104
MY THOUGHTS ... Liked the snippets of folk wisdom, the home-spun philosophy, the Tahitian wisdom, the talk of the gap between traditional elders and their offspring who tend to scoff at local customs and then of course there's the strong, feisty females characters ... always a plus to my mind.
A feel good mother/daughter novel at the heart of which is Materena who we get to know over several decades. Enjoyable at the time. However the trouble is, read September of this year (I know, circumstances have led to some later than usual reviews), and already the characters are little more than a distant memory.