FELICE by Angela Davis-Gardner
Kirkus Star

FELICE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Heaven-bent, mildly hell-raising shenanigans of a twelve-year-old Nova Scotia girl at a 1920s French-colony convent school--in a warmly intimate, funny first novel that blends a rosy, Gallic-sentimental view of a young girl's sexual maturation with delightful portraits of stir-crazy kids and nuns. Felice Belliveau, an orphan, is sent to the AcadÉmie by lascivious Uncle Adolphe; and she is soon drawn to elderly, splendidly mad Sister Agatha--a former fresco-painter who delivers thrilling fulminations on virgin martyrdom, on her future existence with the Celestial Bridegroom. Naturally enough, then, Felice dreams of sainthood. But she finds obstacles along the path of purity. There's the matter, for instance, of speechless ""Monsieur,"" an apparent derelict who is found near death by the sea and is nursed back to health by novice Evangeline: Sister Agatha doesn't quite approve (""Who is bathing his male arrangements?"" she bellows); and when Felice spins a fanciful tale about naughty doings between Evangeline and Monsieur, complications ensue. Nonetheless, the sainthood-quest continues--Felice even has visions--and so does her adoration of Sister A., who gains widespread popularity when one of her paintings becomes a cause cÉlèbre. (The fresco, to be whitewashed on the AbbÉ's orders, is rescued, thanks to a terrifying appearance by Monsieur; Felice organizes a ""Sister Agatha Liberation and Protection League"" when the nun is quite sensibly removed from the public eye by the kind Mother Superior.) And after a disappointing visit home--she fails to convert atheist Uncle Adolphe--Felice returns for a fraught Holy Week: Monsieur nearly rapes Felice, then disappears; novice Evangeline is lost (""Pregnant as a duck,"" chortles Sister A.); Sister Agatha herself swallows her ring, makes a shocking reference to the Circumcision, appropriates a sacred altar key . . . and finally sails off a cliff to her Reward. So, after a sad, flat, Agatha-less summer in the convent and a hilarious farewell to childhood's misinterpretations of religion, Felice discovers her sexual nature and opts for the outside world--the ""dappled world"" that Sister Agatha must have seen and loved. Charming . . . and Sister A. is a pip!

Pub Date: June 11th, 1982
ISBN: 0385340966
Publisher: Random House