(Author: Scholastique Mukasonga) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)
(Around the World: Rwanda)
*** 3.5 stars ***
This book is just what I needed to remind me why I decided to follow the reading around the world challenge. It’s such a good profile of the situation in Rwanda for the time period and even much after (as the book is set before the 1994 Tutsi genocide), that I couldn’t help but feel carried away into the world of the book.
Our Lady of the Nile delves deeply into the psychology of the regular Rwandans, depicting their beliefs, the struggles in society, the aftermath of the Belgian colonial era, the political issues and their effect on the “small” people.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of the narrative, the rather uneducated girls who still believe in witch doctors, or so-called poisoners, and who are trying to keep their own culture, all the while feeling like they need to also be different, more white, more Belgian. The book shows the discrepancy between the “own” and the “other”, between what people want and what they think they should want.
Ever since seeing Hotel Rwanda, I have been having a hard time coping with the senseless violence and this conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, which was completely fabricated and artificial, and was created by the Belgians in order to divide and conquer. I have a really hard time grasping the idea that people would be as easily manipulated as to actually believe in this “racial” separation and even shed blood over it. And yet, they obviously are. So I keep reading information about it, trying to make myself understand. While Our Lady of the Nile didn’t solve it for me, it definitely showed a different side of the problem, as lived in a school for girls.
I really enjoyed the setting of the book, the intricate descriptions of the Rwandan society, their beliefs, the feelings of the young girls, even the taste of the Rwandan food. It was a breath of air from far, far away.
What I didn’t like as much was the actual method of narration that the author used. Rather than the reader being a participant in the events, they were just stories that someone tells. This made the book a bit repetitive, because it just followed the flow of: This is (name), she meets (name), and she starts telling her a story. It could work in a different type of a book, but in this case, it just seemed very distracting, because it took away from the flow of the book.
Even despite that, I think Our Lady of the Nile was a pretty nice book.