A sense of adventure and an eagerness to savor life to the fullest impel young, orphaned Elizabeth Fanshawe to escape her cold, unloving home and enlist in the British Army as a driver in 1944. Dispatched to Paris at the close of the Allies’ war against the hated Nazis, she soon finds herself swept up in the intoxicating celebratory glee of the newly liberated French. But after she meets the charming, seductive Patrice Ambard, Elizabeth’s life takes a sharp turn down a very dark road.
Her love for the dashing, hypnotic Frenchman draws Elizabeth, now called Lise, into Patrice’s world of crime and high-class prostitution, where she is broken, hardened, and then transformed into the whore-turned-notorious-madam known as La Balafrée, or the Scarred One. Still, her great fall will not be complete until circumstances drive her to commit a shocking murder—and imprisonment ultimately sets her free.
A haunting tale of disgrace, degradation, and glorious redemption told in flashbacks from the convent of Belle Source, where Soeur Marie Lise of the Sisters of Bethany remembers her years of sin and her eventual salvation, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy is moving and powerful fiction from one of the most admired British novelists of the twentieth century. Rumer Godden, author of Black Narcissus and In This House of Brede, has crafted a truly transformative tale about faith, forgiveness, and the mercy of a loving God.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of the author including rare images from the Rumer Godden Literary Estate.
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About the Author
Rumer Godden (1907–1998) was the author of more than sixty works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s literature, and is considered by many to be one of the foremost English language writers of the twentieth century. Born in Sussex, England, she moved with her family to Narayanganj, colonial India, now Bangladesh, when she was six months old. Godden began her writing career with Chinese Puzzle in 1936 and achieved international fame three years later with her third book, Black Narcissus. A number of her novels were inspired by her nearly four decades of life in India, including The River, Kingfishers Catch Fire, Breakfast with the Nikolides, and her final work, Cromartie vs. the God Shiva, published in 1997. She returned to the United Kingdom for good at the end of World War II and continued her prolific literary career with the acclaimed novels The Greengage Summer, In This House of Brede, and numerous others. Godden won the Whitbread Award for children’s literature in 1972, and in 1993 she was named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Nine of her novels have been made into motion pictures. She died at the age of ninety in Dumfriesshire, UK.
Read an Excerpt
Five for Sorrow Ten for Joy
By Rumer Godden
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1979 Rumer Godden
All rights reserved.
The sound of the bell carried far over the orchards and fields of the convent of Belle Source.
It was the first bell for Vespers, not a bell in a bell-tower but a hand-bell, rung outside by the Soeur Réglementaire, the bell-ringer, and, in ones and twos, the nuns came in, those from the farm and garden shedding their heavy boots and dark blue overalls, all taking off their aprons. Each sister washed her hands in the basin at the end of the corridor, straightened her veil or took off her blue work head-handkerchief and put on her veil, then went to her place in the line where all the community stood. This was the time when each told, before them all, of any fault she had made.
'What – every day?' asked Father Marc, the new Aumônier. 'That seems a little over-scrupulous. What faults could they possibly have?'
'Only faults against charity and I'm sure not many.' The Prioress smiled. 'But at our Béthanies we need charity as perhaps nowhere else.'
'And, perhaps, as nowhere else,' Marc was to say when he knew them better, 'these Sisters understand the creeping power of sin; if you allow the least crack ...'
'I lingered in the garden after recreation and so kept two of my sisters waiting.'
'I answered Soeur Marie Christine back and was rude.' Soeur Marie Christine made a swift movement of reconciliation.
'I spoke sharply ...' They were those 'least cracks'; but, like an echo from far far back, far from the steadfastness of Belle Source:
'She wouldn't stop crying so I stuffed my handkerchief into her mouth, down and down until ...'
'He came in drunk, the third time that week. He sat down and vomited all over my clean table and his food ... I took a kitchen knife – it wasn't big ...'
'Very well then, if you want to know. I went to bed with five boys in one night. Why shouldn't I? Everyone at the College did it.'
'The first time I tried was when a man used to come outside the school. A lot of us did it but I ... at first it was only a sniff but soon ... soon I was getting zunked – high – more than I knew, then it got so that I had to have it, but it was six hundred francs for thirty grammes and I hadn't any money. That's why I ...'
They were only echoes and, of course, only for some, and no one knew for whom. All alike, the Sisters stood in their white tunics and black veils, no difference between them.
In the chapel for Vespers the sacristan had lit the candles on the three-branched candlestick that stood by the altar; on the altar itself was a bowl of roses, otherwise it was bare though a lamp set on the floor burned before the tabernacle; all else was quiet and simple, the arched, whitewashed ceiling, the polished floor, plain wooden stalls.
The Prioress inclined her head and the nuns came in, their white tunics seeming to fill the chapel with light while the black of the veils picked out faces, some old, some young, pale or rosy or sunburned like Soeur Fiacre who looked after the gardens. Some wore spectacles; some strode, some limped; all, as they took their places, kept their hands under their scapulars which made them more anonymous.
Towards the end of Vespers came, as it always did, the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary's words of exaltation:
Mon âme exalte le Seigneur; exulte mon esprit en Dieu, mon Sauveur ...
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Saviour. He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid and He, who is mighty, hath done great things in me.
and in me ... and me ... me ... me ... Another echo, glorified, that ran through the ranks of the nuns.
Great things. 'Impossible things,' most would have said.
'Father, I should like to introduce you to our Sisters.' After Vespers the Prioress walked with Father Marc into the corridor. It was the Year of the Rabbit. 'Fitting, because I have become a rabbit,' said Marc.
He had celebrated the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong or, rather, Kowloon, in his parish 'of huts and sampans', as he called it. The Dominicans had only just come there, 'and were so sorely needed.' Now, only in April, he was in France again, 'sent back ignominiously.'
'Not ignominiously,' said Father Louis, Marc's best friend, once his novice master.
The long row of nuns seemed formidable. 'Soeur Marie Hilaire de la Croix ... Soeur Magdaleine Josephine ... Soeur Marguerite ... Soeur Marie Alcide,' a very old nun but with small black eyes that penetrated among her wrinkles. 'Soeur Magdaleine de la Trinité ... Soeur Marie Agnès ... Soeur Thecla ... Soeur Fiacre ... Soeur Marie Magdaleine de l'Enfant Jésus ... Soeur Marie Lise.' So many Maries and Magdaleines, thought Marc. 'Well, if you were they, wouldn't you like to have those names if you could?' asked Father Louis. 'Soeur Elizabeth, Soeur Lucie ...' The big brown eyes glanced timidly at Marc and were immediately veiled.
'I sometimes have to believe,' Marc said that evening to Louis, 'that being celibate does bring its dangers; one can stay a child. That little Soeur Lucie ...'
'What makes you think she is celibate?' asked Louis.
Marc had not wanted to come to Belle Source. When the Father Provincial had told him of this appointment Marc, in his dismay, had gone straight to his friend, now Prior of the great house of Saint Dominic, near Paris.
'Louis, help me out of this.'
'I can't, Marc.'
'You have influence, Louis. Please.'
'No.' The brusque answer made Marc blink. Then, 'There they were beginning to know me,' he said, – 'there' meaning Kowloon. 'I was learning the dialect, beginning to be able to understand them. They were so pitiful, Louis, the poverty and despair. I couldn't do much, but at least I was there for them, day and night.'
'And what will you be at Belle Source?'
'For forty-five or so nuns! In Kowloon, that God-forsaken hellspot, there were hundreds, thousands, of poor souls ...'
'The Sisters work for souls too,' Louis reminded him. 'You haven't a monopoly.'
Marc flushed and Louis put an arm round his shoulders. 'Cheer up. It isn't the end of the world, mon ami – my friend. Think of the salads you will have,' he said. 'You can help with the hay and the apple-picking. It's part of their healing.'
'I don't want any more healing, thank you.'
'I wasn't thinking of you.' Louis said it in the old mild way that at once brought Marc to quietness.
'I'm sorry – but, mon Père, why? Why? Why?' demanded Marc. He had given Louis the old novice master title and, indeed, there was something of the novice still in Father Marc for all his forty-one years – the eagerness, passion and rebellion. 'Why?' he demanded. 'Why?'
'You know why. Typhoid is no joke, Marc, and then that formidable heart attack – three months in hospital.' Louis rose from his desk and put his hand on Marc's shoulder. 'Come and sit down. Let's have a drink. My scallywag friend, Jules Carpentier, who runs the betting-shop here keeps me in armagnac, bless him.'
They drank out of the Prior's liqueur brandy glasses, unexpectedly fine old glass, 'left to me by my Aunt Tilde.'
Marc smiled. 'Something you didn't sell to give the money away.'
'No. I was fond of Aunt Tilde. Odd,' said Louis. 'I have scarcely ever bought anything in my life. It has always been given. Of course,' said Louis, his eyes twinkling, 'I know how to take.'
'Is that a hint?'
'Maybe.' Louis looked into the gold of the armagnac, savouring the aroma as the glass warmed in his hand. 'To begin with, couldn't you enjoy your drink?' But Marc burst out again.
'To drop out of life when I had scarcely begun.'
'Out of life?' Now it was Louis who smiled. 'I can guess Béthanie will give you a few surprises.'
At seven o'clock, the morning after his introduction, Marc said his first Mass at Belle Source. Father Louis was server.
'I should serve you, as I always did.'
'Not now. You are the chaplain, confessor and, if you really care, general factotum, Father Marc.'
He says Mass beautifully, thought Soeur Marie Lise with relief. Instinctively she liked this new priest – But how ill he looks, she thought, thin and sallow and the strangely tonsured hair. 'It isn't a tonsure,' Marc was to tell her. 'It's just that after typhoid my hair wouldn't grow again.'
It was Soeur Marie Lise who cleared the altar after the Mass, carrying out book and vessels. Then she brought in the monstrance, shaped, on its tall stem, like a star. Vested in a stole, Marc put in the Host and knelt for a few moments before it, while behind him the soft voices sang. Though the monstrance was of gold, the chapel, he noticed, was plain almost to poorness; there was not even an organ. As he left, a sister moved a prie-dieu to the middle of the choir; from now until Benediction, there would be Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the nuns keeping vigil, perhaps several at a time, perhaps only one, but the Presence was never left alone, and in the chapel silence, absolute and peaceful, reigned. Double glass doors shut off all sound from the ante-chapel.
Soeur Marie Lise brought a small rack of candles that would burn all day on the altar, then another bowl of roses. There was an inner and outer sacristy; to the inner one the sisters never came, except to clean and to lay out the vestments of the day; here Marc and Father Louis made their own silent prayer. Then they walked down to the aumônier's small house for breakfast.
In the domaine, a dew mist was drying off lawns and paths, flower beds and well-kept vegetable plots. Not a nun was to be seen – 'I expect they are at their breakfast – I'm sure more frugal than ours' – but the cows had been driven out to the paddocks – 'Jerseys,' said Louis, 'and what beauties. I can guess they are part of the income of Belle Source.' The hens were out too and in the pheasantry the cocks strutted in the brilliance of their feathers. Ducks quacked from the moat that ran along the walls. Last night, taking an evening stroll, Marc and Louis had passed a pen with a notice: 'Attention! Je couve', and had trod delicately by so as not to disturb the brooding pheasant hen. 'She's another way by which Belle Source earns its living,' and, 'Marc, I envy you this,' said Father Louis. At a turn of the path they met the sacristan, her arms full of daffodils for the chapel. 'I wanted to pick them before the sun took off the dew,' she said.
Marc had noticed this sister the evening before because of her height and the grace with which she moved. Later, he had gone into the wrong sacristy and found her there polishing the silver and had asked her name. 'Soeur Marie Lise du Rosaire.'
It was another of these, as he was to learn, anonymous names – no surnames or family names were given at Béthanie – but he had asked, pleasantly, as he would have asked any nun, 'You have a particular devotion to the rosary then?'
'No.' It was brusque, almost rude and, to his dismay, two red patches appeared on her cheeks. 'I'm afraid I haven't learnt that devotion.' She put the chalices away and shut the cupboard. 'Good-night, Father,' she said, and was gone, but this morning she was smiling and 'buoyant with happiness,' as Louis said afterwards.
'It was a lovely thing for me, mon Père,' she said to Marc with complete friendliness, 'that you should have said your first Mass here this morning. For me it's an anniversary. Eighteen years ago today, I entered Béthanie.'
'Congratulations, Sister.' Both men said it warmly and Louis added, 'I envy you being sacristan.'
'I'm not sacristan. I'm only filling in for Soeur Magdaleine Baptiste who is ill. I'm the convent dogsbody.'
'Also, I'm told, one of the missionaries, the prison visitors.' Louis had an extraordinary way of finding things out. Without questions, thought Marc. 'A very special work,' said Father Louis.
'Just work.' As she moved away towards the chapel a puff of wind caught her veil, blowing it back, and they saw she had a scar on her left cheek, running from her brow to the ear. Marc had already noticed the poise of the tall figure; and found himself wondering how old she was; the line of hair that showed was as black as the veil that hid it; she had had eighteen years at Béthanie, but one could enter at any age, twenty, thirty, forty or more, so that told nothing; all the same Marc sensed there was some deep gulf between this Soeur Marie Lise and the girl she must once have been. Her blue eyes were direct, steady, but there was the scar and, There are dark feelings here, thought Marc, feelings that not even control can hide. He was not surprised when, over coffee, Louis said, 'That sacristan of yours ...'
'She's not sacristan and she's not mine.'
'Soeur Marie Lise then,' and Louis said, 'I have seen that face before ...' He brooded. Then, 'Yes,' he said, 'it was quite long ago. It must have been soon after World War Two.' Father Louis had been in the First. 'You could only have been twelve years old or so, Marc, too young to know, but ... Yes, I remember her.'CHAPTER 2
Behind Lise the door shut. It was the small exit door set in huge bolted gates of iron from which the walls of Vesoul, closed prison for women, stretched away, forbiddingly high and angled with arc-lights at every corner and curve. The small door was locked too and the guard had a grille so that he could look through.
He had let Lise out just after six o'clock in the morning, motioning her through without a word of congratulation, not even a 'Bonne chance' – Perhaps he had seen too many women come and go and wanted to get back to his newspaper – but, Never mind, thought Lise. She was outside.
It had been cleverly managed; announced for the afternoon, but if she had come out of Vesoul then, there would have been a barricade of cameras and journalists waiting. A crowd probably hostile. 'La Balafrée released.' 'La Balafrée.'
'Yes, that was my nickname,' said Lise. 'La Balafrée. The branded one, gashed for life.' 'La Balafrée, Madame Lise' ... 'Madame Lise gets off after only ten years.' Lise could imagine the headlines, the talk revived; commuters reading their daily papers in trains, comments from politicians, gossip in cafés and factories, shops: women at home pronouncing over their coffee, 'Something wrong with our penal service ... It's not justice. Far too soft ... only ten years!' Let them try just one, thought Lise. Would any of them have said 'Poor woman'?
But she was not poor; she, Lise, now, at thirty-seven, had no surname she wanted to own, no family or old friends to greet her, no possessions except what she had in her suitcase, no money except the few hundred francs she had earned in the workshop; in fact, nothing except hope, but she stepped out into the April morning buoyant with the happiness Father Louis was to see all those years after. She stood on the pavement and took a deep breath.
'Will you be frightened?' Marianne Rueff, the Assistante Sociale or Welfare Officer, had asked her. 'It would be only natural after so many years.' But Lise was not frightened, only a little giddy, and feeling a stranger, as she had felt when, after the few discreet goodbyes, she had crossed the prison outer courtyard with its trees and lines of parked cars to the gates.
It was the first time she had set foot on that courtyard ground since the day when the great gate had opened to let in the police van, the 'panier à salade,' with its load of miserable occupants. She had not noticed the trees then; it had been too difficult getting down from the van because she had been chained to the woman next to her, as they had been chained on the long train journey, two by two like miscreant sheep; Lise's wrists had been marked for days. It had also been raining, a cold dark afternoon, And I was dark, black dark, with no feeling as if I had been made of wood, wood not iron thankfully, she thought now, because there is a tale, or is it a sentence that someone once said when speaking of a lute, that anything made of wood has an affinity with the Cross.
'But why did I take three years to find that out?' Lise had said to Soeur Marie Alcide. 'It was only after I had done three years that suddenly your white tunics ... Why so long?'
'Well, perhaps you were not ready,' said Soeur Marie Alcide.
'I suppose if it were the same for everybody it would be very dull,' Lise had said.
'I think you will find God is never dull,' said Soeur Marie Alcide.
Excerpted from Five for Sorrow Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden. Copyright © 1979 Rumer Godden. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In this gem of a book, a nun’s life story is told in flashbacks from when as an innocent twenty-year old she became a battered prostitute to how other tragic events in her life shaped her religious vocation. Neither the nuns nor the prostitutes are stereotyped; nor romanticized. All characters are brilliantly portrayed as real people in this non-pious story of redemption and miracles. One of the underlying themes of Godden’s --women’s prison reform -- is presented in a non-preachy way. How the main character’s life was shaped, first by disinterested and evil people to eventually a life shaped by good and caring people, is worthy of reflection. This book is highly recommended for adult readers.