School story

The dictator of the dorm: Our Lady of the Nile, by Scholastique Mukasonga, reviewed

In the cloud-capped highlands of Rwanda, even the rain-makers sound like crashing snobs. When two teenage pupils from Our Lady of the Nile lycée slope off to consult the sorceress Nyamirongi about some boyfriend trouble, she sizes up their genealogies and comes over all Mitford duchess: ‘You’re not from very good families. But nowadays they say it no longer matters.’ Like so much in Scholastique Mukasonga’s novel, it’s a comic scene with a rumble of menace in the background — akin to the rainy season’s distant thunder in these lush, green hills. Where you belong — your people, your connections, your identity — has been a matter of life and