It is said that this “funny and sad novelis about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty.” The Bell should be right up my alley because I love stories that focus on small communities and morality. The synopsis reads: “A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey…A new bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered“. At the same time, it appears that a number of characters also decide to either confront their partners or change their relationships status.
II. The Iliac Crest [2002/17] by Cristina Rivera Garza
Sometimes I am up for something subversive and unusual. The Iliac Crest is by Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza who decided to explore the concepts of gender and identity, presenting in her story two women who come to an unnamed narrator’s house and start their questioning. “The increasingly frantic protagonist fails to defend his supposed masculinity and eventually finds himself in a sanatorium.” The novel has been called “haunting” and “otherworldly”, and I am sure there are many surprises along the way.
The Magic Mountain [1924/27] by Thomas Mann – ★★★★★
This is the best book I read this month. It is an unforgettable literary journey through the psyche of a man trapped in a comfortable sanatorium high in the Swiss Alpes (see my full review).
Havoc [1930/68] by Tom Kristensen– ★★★★1/2
This Danish classic also exceeded my expectations – a dark existential novel about a man suffering from alcoholism and balancing on the edge of abyss (see my full review).
Black Narcissus  by Rumer Godden – ★★★★1/2
In this atmospheric novel, an Anglican order of nuns sets up a nunnery high in the Himalayan mountains, in a palace where once the local General led his dissipated lifestyle. Sister Superior Clodagh leads her charge of devoted Sisters and they soon establish a school and a dispensary on the premises. A “battle of the sexes” ensures when charismatic Mr. Dean, the General’s Agent and the local “bad boy”, starts helping the Sisters with their tasks, while also making them flushed and uncomfortable. The splendid vistas from the convent, the brazenness of the local people and all the colours and aromas of India soon prove too much for the Sisters, some of whom start having thoughts that are far from God and their religious duty. The claustrophobia heightens, sexual tensions abound, passions and dissatisfactions break out, and then one act of jealousy may just undermine the reputation of the whole order. This is a beautiful, tightly-woven tale of a duty/desire clash set in one exotic place.