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Summary

Now a major BBC drama starring Gemma Arterton.

High in the Himalayas near Darjeeling, the old mountaintop palace shines like a jewel. When it was the General's 'harem' palace, richly dressed ladies wandered the windswept terraces; at night, music floated out over the villages and gorges. Now, the General's son has bestowed it on an order of nuns, the Sisters of Mary. 

Well-intentioned yet misguided, the nuns set about taming the gardens and opening a school and dispensary for the villagers. They are dependent on the local English agent of Empire, Mr Dean; but his charm and insolent candour are disconcerting. And the implacable emptiness of the mountain, the ceaseless winds, exact a toll on the Sisters. 

When Mr Dean says bluntly, 'This is no place for a nunnery,' it is as if he foresees their destiny.

©1939 The Rumer Godden Literary Trust (P)2014 Oakhill Publishing

What listeners say about Black Narcissus

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

A bit too much madness

Found it all a bit too much madness going on- felt my head swimming myself!

21 people found this helpful

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Himalayan nunnery fantasy

Having recently watched the slightly unconvincing and CGI heavy BBC mini series and the superior 1947 feature film starring Deborah Kerr, I wanted to read / listen to the original Rumer Godden book on which these are based.
Neither of the screen productions seem to have waivered too far from the storyline of this original book. Whilst the BBC mini series gets carried away with the scenery, this book and the Deborah Kerr film concentrate more on the relationships between the good sisters and the outside world and the mysterious past of their new home. Although the writing is very much of its time (published in 1939) it is easy to see how this remarkable story has inspired the re-telling on the big and small screen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • JF
  • 07-09-21

Thoroughly enjoyable

Rumer Godden expresses quite profound insights in very brief but incisive sentences. She also has the habit of switching the narrative point of view very freely. One minute you are in the head of Clodagh remembering an image from her teenage romance with Con in Ireland, the next you are with Sister Phillipa, imagining how her latest planting scheme will transform the garden. These are not trivial daydreams. Each of the nuns in St Faith’s is transformed by the contact with the mountain that looms over their convent. The mountain and Mr Dean. It is quite a shock to find yourself also, very briefly, in the head of Mr Dean when mad Sister Ruth breaks all the rules and comes stalking after him. In some ways this technique is not suited to an audio book. You really have to concentrate as the point of view can shift several times in the space of a minute. But it is read with great accuracy and precision by Jilly Bond so that every nuance of meaning is conveyed. This made me want to seek out another reading by Jilly Bond and another novel by Rumer Godden. This is one of the few audio books that I listened to more than once, to savour the details.

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very enjoyable

Great listening well read
I was enchanting listening to this narrative.
one of the best books I've listened tobyet

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  • J. Hayes
  • 08-09-18

Stunning!

It is a travesty that this book is not more famous. It’s an amazing book of culture clash, of pride and frailty, and of the powers of religion, history and nature. Plus it’s really gripping as a story. It breaks my heart that this is the only Rumor Godden on Audible.

Jilly Bond is a real phenomenon. Each voice was unique and perfectly fit the character. In the narrative parts, she brilliantly expresses the atmosphere that is possibly the main character in the book. I am off now to see what else she has narrated!

3 people found this helpful