Saturday, 26 December 2020

Black Narcissus


'Then she could have sworn she heard a noise, a drag like a wet skirt on the floor, but the room was empty.'

Rumer Godden's novels begin with a journey. In Black Narcissus the five English nuns travelling to Mopu in Northern India think they will establish a school for making lace, a clinic and teach local children to read and write. Instead the Himalayan altitude begins to work on them and the Darjeeling wind which smells of tea and orange blossom evokes desire and memories. 

Sister Clodagh cannot stop thinking about her former love in Ireland, Sister Blanche yearns for a baby, Sister Philippa becomes obsessed with the gardens and poor sad, mad Sister Ruth becomes fixated on Mr Dean the macho site agent.

Only the older, wiser Sister Briony keeps it together but even she can't prevent Sister Blanche from making a fatal mistake which turns the local people against the nuns.  Then Sister Ruth makes her move on Mr Dean.

Virago have just published this lovely edition and I'm very much looking forward to the BBC production tonight.  I hope they do justice to a wonderful storyteller.  Rumer Godden went on to write a more sophisticated study of a convent in In This House of Brede, one of my favourite novels, but nothing quite captures the gothic tension of Black Narcissus.

9 comments:

IzaBzh said...

The cover is really beautiful and I'm interested in reading this, because of Ireland, a country which I love, and India - I'm thinking about a possible future Irish literature readathon (but taking my time). Thanks for sharing !

Lark said...

Sounds like quite the read! :)

Cath said...

I think I remember seeing the 1947 film when I was much younger but can't remember very much about it. We set the Humax box to record the new BBC production and have my fingers crossed that it will be a good version.

Carol said...

Oooh! I'd buy the book just for the cover, but I do like Godden. Will look our=t for this one. Thanks for the succinct review. I was wondering how it would compare to In This House of Brede & the location would add a very interesting twist. Hope you had a great Christmas & all the very best for 2021!

Cosy Books said...

The cover art on this edition is stunning, isn't it! We watched the televised version and enjoyed it but there were times when I felt chunks of storyline were left out to make up the time. A good reason to pick up a copy of the book. Have you read An Episode of Sparrows? It's one of my all-time favourite comfort reads.

Kat said...

I read this book for the first time this year and loved it. She did like nun books, didn't she? I haven't seen the TV series yet, but am looking forward to it. I know Godden disliked the film version of Black Narcissus. Let's hope this one is better!

Vintage Reading said...

LzaBzh, yes the cover is a reprint of the pattern on an Indian girl's dress. I think from the V&A. Enjoy your Irish Lit Redaction!

Lark, Rumer Godden is a great storyteller but her books seem to come in and out of fashion.

Cath, I think the 1947 film is much better. I quite liked the BBC production but they stetched it too much and changed the story.

Happy New Year Carol! I love In This House of Brede. Set in Sussex I think.

Cosy Books yes they changed the story and stretched it out too much. Gemma Aterton made a lovely Sister Clodagh and I was impressed with the actors playing Mr Dean, Ayah and Sister Phillipa. Overall I enjoyed it but something was lost from the novel. I must read An Episode of Sparrows.

Mixed reviews here,Kat! Worth watching but nope as gripping as the 1947 film which Godden actually hated. I think she was a Catholic but not sure why she was so fascinated with nuns!



CLM said...

I persuaded my book group to read this a few months ago - I figured those who don't like historical fiction as much as I do could watch the miniseries. I did like the book although found it quirky like all Goodden (not a bad thing). I started watching the miniseries afterward but it did not hold my attention despite the beautiful scenery.

Love the Virago cover! I got an old tired copy from the library.

Gwen said...

The description you gave is engaging and grabs the readers.