MERCY, PITY, PEACE AND LOVE: Stories by Rumer & Jon Godden Godden

MERCY, PITY, PEACE AND LOVE: Stories

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of stories by the two Godden sisters that, for the most part, should have been left to molder in the old magazines they appeared in years ago. The majority are by the better-known Rumer, but all are so similar in style, sentiment and setting that who wrote what is largely irrelevant. The pieces, reflecting the years the sisters spent in India--both as children and adults--are set in three places in India: Bengal, Calcutta, and Kashmir. And most are about characters who learn too late, or never, some crucial truth. In the title story, a young student accompanies his father through a teeming Calcutta marketplace. Preoccupied with his need to complete his thesis on the ""Nature of Human Love,"" he fails to notice that the material he requires is all around him: a starving woman begs for money to bury her dead baby; a young girl watches her aunt spend a sum equal to a year's school fees--a sum she had been told was unavailable for her education; and a livestock-dealer demonstrates his cruelty to the wild animals and birds he sells. In ""Sister Malone and the Obstinate Man,"" a nun in charge of an outpatient clinic preaches to the younger nuns on the need for faith in doing their work, but fails to recognize the equally strong faith of an old man who believes the charm round his neck will cure him. In the two other notable stories, characters experience their epiphanies too late: after they have killed a beautiful creature (""The Wild Duck"") or been impatient with a poor craftsman (""Rahmin""). The Goddens are good at local color, but their obvious sympathies come too close to sentimentality--and the points made, the morals drawn, and the insights learned are pat. Only for the most faithful of Godden fans.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1990
Publisher: Morrow