Camille and the Raising of Eros

Written by William Rose
Review by Sally Zigmond

When motherless French girl Camille wants to be a nun, her father asks a psychologist to assess her sanity. Pronounced sane, Camille enters a Carmelite monastery in Spain. There she falls in love with Sister Julia, who was once an African slave. When they are discovered embracing, she is banished to a stricter establishment in France run by Genevieve.

Genevieve was born with vast wealth but, neglected by her mother and raised as a hedonistic atheist, she disastrously marries a Spanish count. In his austere castle, she meets a badly-treated African slave, who later becomes Sister Julia. Genevieve eventually runs away and chooses the religious life and becomes Mother Superior of her own nunnery. This is where disgraced young Camille, now Sister Constance, is sent. Eventually Genevieve’s estranged husband forces his way into the nunnery with his cruel henchmen, demanding Genevieve’s immediate return and that of his slave. A fatal sword-fight follows, and all is resolved.

Parallel with these narrative lines is the story of a Freudian psychoanalyst and his young protégé. The book’s author is an art expert and knowledgeable about classical myths and legends and the work of Freud and Jung. This is a complicated and perhaps a needlessly prurient novel which, although exciting in places, tells me nothing new or original about innocent young girls. A slow read.