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Frost in May

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso

a novel by A. White, published in 1933. It was described by Elizabeth Bowen as not only a classic girls' school story, but a work of art: ‘intense, troubling, semi-miraculous’. In 1908, nine-year-old Nanda Grey, the daughter of a convert, arrives at the Convent of the Five Wounds, where the creation of ‘soldiers of Christ, accustomed to hardship and ridicule and ingratitude’ is a governing principle. From descriptions of small but stringent religious demands on daily life through to passionate friendships nurtured by the very rules established to prevent them, the novel vividly creates this enclosed world. Though Nanda wholeheartedly accepts the Catholic Church, uncertainties surface: her First Communion lacks the spiritual climax she had anticipated; a retreat is hampered by the sense that some elements of religious life are a ‘meaningless complication’. As a proof of faith, she begins a novel in which worldly behaviour will be exonerated by its characters' dramatic conversion in the final chapter. The unfinished manuscript is discovered and Nanda is despatched from the convent on her fourteenth birthday, without the opportunity to explain. Her father denounces her impurity; the Mother of Discipline affirms that by breaking her will, Nanda can be at one with God.

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