The Naked Name of Love Paperback – 7 Jan 2010
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'A beautiful story of West meeting East and of love that transcends culture, faith and ultimately, tragedy, this is a novel on an epic scale and an astonishingly intimate story' (Irish Post)
'Accounts of the natural world are quite beautiful and the psychological acuteness of some of the novel's events, such as the senseless, brutal killing of a mule by a soldier bent on displaying his power, is effective and disquieting' (Sydney Morning Herald)
'Grapples with faith and science post-Darwin as East and West cultures clash on the steppes of Mongolia in 1865. It is a very special book, a lovely novel for The English Passengers or Stars of the Sea market, and an epic love story beautifully written' (Bookseller)
Praise for Sanjida O'Connell (-)
Taut, complex and highly original (The Times on Angel Bird)
Sanjida O'Connell does for sugar what Dava Sobel did for Longitude: make a gripping drama out of dry school lessons (Guardian on Sugar: the Grass that Changed the World)
'[O'Connell] has quite an imagination.' (Dover Express; Folkestone Herald; Deal + Sandwich Express)
I would have crossed the world to be with you . . .
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Top customer reviews
It is ultimately about change and how it affects our lives. In a wider sense, how Darwin's theory was changing views on science, religion and the natural world and in a more personal way, how one priest was changed and forced to re-examine his beliefs about faith and love by his travels and experiences in China and Mongolia. In particualr his feelings for a woman he meets and falls in love with during his stay.
It is very atmospheric, really evoking a sense of the places and events described and awakened my interest in a place and time I knew little about before reading this book. You can't read it and not be left wishing to see these places yourself.
Parts of this book have stayed with me long after I finished the last page.
O'Connell has done a great deal of research both into the period and into the landscape and cultural practices in Mongolia at the time. Her prose is stunning, lusciously descriptive and evocative of the wild beauty of the country. She has a real knack for writing about animals, and I loved the sections with the tame wolf and eagle, who Naumuunaa has trained as hunting companions. A trained scientist, her knowledge of botany - and indeed of psychology - is impressive, and she also provides some very interesting meditations on the work of Charles Darwin, and how it affected both scientists and religious believers in the second half of the 19th century. I also felt that O'Connell explored Joseph's spiritual dilemma - heightened by the fact that he'd been orphaned so young, and reared by a priest - with great sensitivity. And Naumuunnaa was a wonderful character, as was Mendo the monk. There's also some fine descriptions of my former home town of Bristol in its seafaring days, which I enjoyed.
True, there are aspects of the book that were slightly unbelievable. I don't think O'Connell researched Catholicism nearly as thoroughly as she did Buddhism; I wasn't clear how Joseph, if he was a Jesuit, had managed to avoid employment as a priest, or at least in some religious establishment, or whether Patrick was Catholic - and if not, why Joseph had become so (St Mary's in Bristol, which I guess is St Mary Redcliffe, is an Anglican church, and I think Patrick was vicar there, so wouldn't have been Catholic). I also think Joseph's Catholic guilt at his feelings for Naumuunaa and their consequences would have been even greater, as for a priest to give up on their celibacy would have been thought a considerable sin at the time - and indeed still is. I also felt that Joseph seemed to become fluent in Mongolian (not an easy language!) far too quickly - his conversations with Naumuunaa and Mendo seemed far too sophisticated for a novice speaker - though I guess this was an unavoidable problem.
However, the quality of writing and the author's clear commitment to her subject is such that these points really don't matter that much overall - and I'd warmly recommend the book to anyone interested in the East, in Buddhism and Catholicism or in Darwin and his discoveries. Will be interested to read O'Connell's earlier books next - and her thriller, written under a pen-name.