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Frost in May by Antonia White
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Frost in May (original 1933; edition 1978)

by Antonia White, Elizabeth Bowen (Introduction)

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6401515,108 (3.91)213
Member:sqdancer
Title:Frost in May
Authors:Antonia White (Author)
Other authors:Elizabeth Bowen (Introduction)
Info:London : Virago, 1978.
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:VMC, Virago

Work details

Frost in May by Antonia White (1933)

  1. 20
    The Land of Spices by Kate O'Brien (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: Young girls at convent schools, trying to fit in.
  2. 00
    How Far Can You Go? by David Lodge (crittergirl)
    crittergirl: Novels with protagonists who struggle with Catholic doctrine
  3. 00
    Amandine by Marlena de Blasi (lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Books about young girls growing up in convents
  4. 00
    The Ant Heap by Margit Kaffka (christiguc)
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
The novel starts with Nanda arriving at the Convent of the Five Wounds Catholic boarding school at nine-years of age. Her father had recently converted to Catholicism and she quickly picks up that this makes her a second class Catholic, compared to those who come from long-standing Catholic families. Nanda is a clever and creative young person who quite normally craves close friends. However, creativity, free will and young women talking in groups of only two are all frowned on at the Convent. Nanda continues to be very devout but has doubts when she can't quite reach the level of emotional engagement with Catholic traditions that others claim. Antonia White writes brilliantly and constantly makes fun of the Catholic faith, beliefs and dogma, as Nanda struggles hard to accept. The Nuns main aim is to break any free spirited child and achieve unquestioning acceptance of Catholicism and they take this to extremes. The novel is all set in the convent, apart from one section at home at Christmas, and has the same stifling and incense-rich atmosphere of the convent. An excellent and interesting read. ( )
  Tifi | Sep 24, 2014 |
First line:
~Nanda was on her way to the Convent of the Five Wounds~

My first official read of a Virago Modern Classic, and I enjoyed it very much,. Perhaps enjoyed is not quite the right word since at times the book was horrifying in terms of the emotional abuse that the young protagonist suffered at the hands of the nuns at her convent school. But so well written! And I really felt for Nanda and the trials through which her faith never wavered.

I did find the story a little slow to latch on to and until about half way through I was wondering why I was bothering because so little seemed to be happening and I tend to prefer more action in my novels. However, the tide turned and I could hardly put the book down, wanting to find out what happened next and what the fate of our little girl was. A sad commentary on what we put young girls through at that time.

Overall I give this 3.5 stars
  ccookie | Mar 31, 2014 |
First line:
~Nanda was on her way to the Convent of the Five Wounds~

My first official read of a Virago Modern Classic, and I enjoyed it very much,. Perhaps enjoyed is not quite the right word since at times the book was horrifying in terms of the emotional abuse that the young protagonist suffered at the hands of the nuns at her convent school. But so well written! And I really felt for Nanda and the trials through which her faith never wavered.

I did find the story a little slow to latch on to and until about half way through I was wondering why I was bothering because so little seemed to be happening and I tend to prefer more action in my novels. However, the tide turned and I could hardly put the book down, wanting to find out what happened next and what the fate of our little girl was. A sad commentary on what we put young girls through at that time.

Overall I give this 3.5 stars
  ccookie | Mar 31, 2014 |
First line:
~Nanda was on her way to the Convent of the Five Wounds~

My first official read of a Virago Modern Classic, and I enjoyed it very much,. Perhaps enjoyed is not quite the right word since at times the book was horrifying in terms of the emotional abuse that the young protagonist suffered at the hands of the nuns at her convent school. But so well written! And I really felt for Nanda and the trials through which her faith never wavered.

I did find the story a little slow to latch on to and until about half way through I was wondering why I was bothering because so little seemed to be happening and I tend to prefer more action in my novels. However, the tide turned and I could hardly put the book down, wanting to find out what happened next and what the fate of our little girl was. A sad commentary on what we put young girls through at that time.

Overall I give this 3.5 stars ( )
  ccookie | Mar 10, 2014 |
The story opens with Nanda traveling to her new Catholic school, a convent of the Five Wounds. Although she is not thrilled, Nanda quickly succumbs to the deep ritual and sanctity of the school. Nanda and her parents are Catholic converts, and she loves her new religion, even if she is not always as fond of the nuns. The short novel traces her experience over the four years she is enrolled in the convent school, focusing on the daily structure of her school, the unrelenting discipline, and her important friendships.

The majority of the book centers on life in the school. Large sections are dedicated to describing daily school classes and religious services, the many festivals and special holy occasions that pepper the year, and the Catholic lessons taught to students. With the author's clean and intimate style, these sections were easy to read, but not terribly exciting for me. I was much more interested in passages that detailed Nanda's relationships with her classmates. On the other hand, the numerous descriptions of school life painted a completely convincing portrayal of the world that enveloped Nanda. Just as Nanda is shocked to realize, towards the end of the book, how thoroughly her life has been infiltrated by the ideals of her school, I was surprised by how much the setting of this book had pulled me in. Once I finished, I discovered that I missed the enclosed esoteric world, despite the fact that I was underwhelmed while reading.

Nanda is a sweet girl, full of subtle contradictions, and relatable to the reader. She is compliant, but a streak of stubborn defiance runs through her and eventually shows up in her school work and participation. She loves her faith and church, but is often frustrated with its clergy (especially the nuns). She wants to be obedient to God, but feels a tug towards the arts and the written word that she thinks is at odds with her religion. Nanda becomes friends with fascinating minor characters, like Claire and Leonie. Their interactions are the best part of the novel, as the writer strongly presents the bond and intimacy of a young girl's friendships.

The nuns, however, are not entirely pleased with these relationships. They want the girls to associate and be amiable, but not actually friends. Too much nearness can lead to rebellion. And rebellion is brewing inside Nanda. She loves her religion, and the freedom it brings, but the nuns' mission is to break the spirit of every girl so that she will be able to receive God's will for her. They believe that anything precious or important to the girls must be suppressed, for their own good. The conflict between these two ideologies - freedom or repression in faith - is a central theme in the book. Eventually, Nanda chooses her path, albeit inadvertently. The nuns find her novel, rife with inappropriate material (she intended a dramatic conversion at the end to justify her juicier content). She must leave her school, and it breaks her heart, in spite of all her fight against it.

As I wrote earlier, the world created in this novel is engrossing. The author must have spent time in a Catholic school herself, as the book is steeped with the minutia of that life, along with excerpts from sermons and lesson books. I understand that the author's major themes are furthered by these details, but they do bog down the novel at times. I liked Nanda and her friends, and I was enraged on Nanda's behalf at some of the ridiculous hypocrisy she had to endure. I'm a Christian, but I do not subscribe to those beliefs. These strong features don't entirely balance out a plot that is slow and heavier on the setting than the character interactions. The novel does a marvelous job creating a Catholic setting, and presents interesting and complex people, but doesn't do enough with them. The internal struggles and personal revelation, which is where the confrontations and climax occur, would work well in a short story. In the end, the novel only maintained an intermittent hold on my interest, and while it was good, it could have been better. ( )
  nmhale | Sep 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Few other novels of our time, whatever the materials they have dealt in, have exhibited the clarity of purpose, the niceness of emphasis, the neatness of detail displayed by Miss White in "Frost in May."
added by christiguc | editNew York Times, Louis Kronenberger (pay site) (Mar 4, 1934)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Antonia Whiteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowen, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clec'h, Guy LeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hegewicz, EnriqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hōjō, FumioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansson, GundlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juul, PiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meulen, Janneke van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rumler, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To H.T. Hopkinson
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Nanda was on her way to the Convent of the Five Wounds.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
From back cover: Nanda Gray, the daughter of a Catholic convert, is nine when, in 1908, she goes to the Convent of the Five Wounds. Quick-witted, resilient and enthusiastic, she eagerly adapts to this closed world, learning rigid conformity and subjection to authority. Passionate friendships are the only deviation from her total obedience. Convent life - the smell of beeswax and incense; the petty cruelty of the nuns; the glamour and eccentricity of Nanda's friends - is perfectly captured. But this is much more than a school story; it is a lyrical account of the death of a soul.
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Nanda Grey, the daughter of a convert, is just nine years old when she enters the convent of Five Wounds. Quick-witted and eager to please she is quickly absorbed into the closed world, where authority, self-control and rigid conformity rule.

(summary from another edition)

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