It’s always exciting to discover another first-rate author, especially one writing Christian fiction. I first discovered Rumer Godden by accident, with a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ purchase of ‘Greenage Summer’ from a charity shop. I don’t know why I bought it. It wasn’t the cover (grey hardback), the blurb (vanished along with the dust-jacket), the title (uninformative). But the story, a coming-of-age tale about young children on holiday in France crossed with a murder mystery, is utterly enthralling with a heart-rending twist at the end.
Then I read ‘House of Brede’, a novel about a professional woman who leaves her career to become a nun, and realised that Rumer wasn’t a one-hit-wonder, but an accomplished and deeply thoughtful novelist. She had an interesting life – worth investigating online!
‘Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy’ is about the madam of a Paris brothel, just after the war, who is sent to prison for murder and then becomes a nun. A similar premise to ‘House of Brede’ but a much darker story, with themes of corruption, trauma, exploitation, decadence, love, protection and abuse. A good, complex story. Even better because it is inspired by truth: the real-life Sisters of Béthanie who cared for women in French prisons and offered them hope. The title comes from the rosary which has fifteen ‘decades’ – groups of ten beads. The first five are for Mary’s sorrows, the remaining ten for her joys and glories. A reminder that even in the darkest circumstances, joy and hope are possible.