Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga

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Publication Date: March 2022

Despite Mother Superior whispering, ‘We’re so close to heaven,’ in a calm and collected convent high up in the misty Rwandan hills, a student, Gloriosa, a Hutu with an influential father, finds the nose of the Virgin Mary statue offensive. It is the nose of a Tutsi, she announces. Ethnic enmities begin to make themselves known…

A haunting book with shafts of light, comedy and a deft touch, Our Lady of the Nile is set in a convent school in Rwanda just before the genocide. Taut and written with simplicity and beauty, Scholastique Mukasonga’s writing has an eye for satire that will leave the reader wondering long after she has closed the book.

Mother Superior hinted, gently but firmly, that as it was a solemn occasion, they should wear a jacket and tie, instead of those ugly trousers they call blue jeans, and that she was counting on them to behave respectfully and set an example for the pupils. Sister Bursar spent a good part of the night in the pantry, setting aside items for the picnic: corned beef, sardines in oil, jam, Kraft cheese. You could hear the jangle of the huge bunch of keys attached to her leather belt. She counted out just enough crates of Fanta for the pupils, and a few bottles of Primus lager for the chaplain, Brother Auxile, and Father Angelo from the nearby mission. For the Rwandan Sisters, the teachers and the school monitors, she put aside a demijohn of pineapple wine, the specialty of Sister Kizito, who jealously guards the secret recipe.