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Frost in May

Frost in May
Antonia White
221 pages

First sentence:  Nanda was on her way to the Convent of the Five Wounds.

Reflections:  As noted in the introduction, Frost in May is of the genre known as "school stories": books about the horrors of boarding school.  These stories usually concern boys' schools, and those written about girls were insulting and unrealistic.  Antonia White attempted to change that with this, her first novel, published in 1933.  Nanda is a quite normal and ordinary 9-year-old heroine, sent to a convent school following her parents' conversion to Catholicism.  She is devout and excited about her new faith.  Bit by bit, she is broken down by the nuns who stifle creativity, independent thought, and freedom of expression.  Nanda struggles to reconcile her early enthusiasm with reality:  How could an institution be wrong that was evidently so divinely inspired, that had survived for nearly two thousand years in spite of persecution and slander, that stood firm through scandals, heresies and schisms?

My main reason for reading this book is that it it was the first Virago Modern Classic to be published.   Virago Modern Classics celebrate women writers, often resurrecting and reprinting older works which may have gone unrecognized.  Antonia White writes in a style not unlike Jane Austen, often poking fun at Nanda's world.  Convent-educated herself, she no doubt spoke from direct experience.  I've recently acquired about 10 Viragos by hunting through various used bookshops, including some other works by White.  I'm looking forward to becoming better acquainted with our "literary foremothers," by reading more Virago Modern Classics.   ( )


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 5th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
I have not heard of Virago Modern Classics - this is very interesting. I will be curious to read more of your Virago reviews as you post them.

I finished my book (Rebecca) two days ago, and I really don't know what to write about it. Have you ever had that problem?
Dec. 6th, 2007 12:50 pm (UTC)
Hi Jill, I'd not heard of Virago Modern Classics myself until stumbling upon them in some LibraryThing discussions. Some editions are out of print and therefore "collectible," and it's fun to "hunt" for them whenever I visit a used bookshop. I have about 10 in my catalog, none of which are valuable, but I got caught up in the thrill of the chase! There is a VMC edition of Rebecca, too, by the way :-)

I know what you mean about reviews for books you feel just so-so about. Sometimes when I read a book, something really jumps out at me that I just have to write about. And then sometimes, it was "just another book."
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )