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Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga

Our Lady of the Nile - Scholastique Mukasonga, Melanie Mauthner

This is a short yet somewhat dense novel set in an elite Rwandan girls' boarding school in the 1970s: set well before the genocide but written after, it focuses primarily on the laying of the groundwork for ethnic cleansing. As a novel, though, it didn't do anything for me: the structure is more a series of vignettes than a plot; there is no protagonist, and almost all of the girls seem either interchangeable or too distant to inspire any sense of connection in readers. The most vivid personality is Gloriosa, who leads the persecution of her Tutsi classmates, but she's too caricatured and two-dimensional to be interesting, let alone sympathetic. And for all that in real life the teenage years are a time of intense emotion, the girls' interactions and relationships are almost entirely driven by politicking and almost devoid of any real human connection or friendship. Sure, teens are selfish, but could an entire schoolful of them be quite this calculating? I don't know, but this book didn't delve deeply enough into anyone's psychologies to convince me. Or at any rate, something was lost in translation.


The mountaintop setting sounds beautiful, though, and the glimpses into Rwandan culture are well-done.