Our Lady of the Nile
Scholastique Mukasonga drops us into an elite Catholic boarding school for young women perched on the ridge of the Nile. Parents send their daughters to Our Lady of the Nile to be molded into respectable citizens . . . and to escape the dangers of the outside world. Fifteen years prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, we watch as these girls try on their parents’ preconceptions and attitudes, transforming the lycée into a microcosm of the country’s mounting racial tensions and violence. In the midst of the interminable rainy season, everything unfolds behind the closed doors of the school: friendship, curiosity, fear, deceit, prejudice, and persecution. With a masterful prose that is at once subtle and penetrating, Mukasonga captures a society hurtling toward horror.
Our Lady of the Nile, Scholastique Mukasonga’s first novel, is a work of great subtlety and power. Set in Rwanda, in an elite Catholic boarding school for young women, this is a classic coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a country slowly sliding into chaos and violence. It’s a book about friendship, about fear, about prejudice and hate. The book’s profound moral and psychological insights are more than matched by a plot that swerves and surprises and by characters whose misunderstandings and petty grievances have the most terrible consequences. A book of horrors and delights.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Set in a boarding school for girls from rich families in the mountains of Rwanda. Run by Hutus, it must have a quota of 10% Tutsi girls, who must show more intelligence to succeed. This story gives the opportunity to describe the social and political climate in Rwanda before the terror of 1994. A powerful and harrowing novel.