(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Godden explores deeply the conflict between good and evil in society: the fascination that evil has for humankind, even the attraction of brutality, which Lise experiences when she confronts Patrice. The author describes, too, the terrible deterioration in Vivi, separated from her lover and married to Luigi, a good and decent Italian truck-driver. She hates her baby and neglects him so that on one occasion Luigi hesitatingly asks Lise, "Are babies supposed to smell?" Vivi's hatred for Lise after the latter kills Patrice is undying. Although Vivi's first invasion of Bethanie to kill Lise is thwarted by Lucette's intervention and death, one feels certain she will never rest until she succeeds in killing Lise.

Godden describes community life with great accuracy. Before writing Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy she spent time in the Bethanie Community, where she was assisted by the nuns and arrived at a deep understanding of their life and work. She writes convincingly of religious life, its difficulties and its deep joys. Godden's understanding of religious life is especially evident in her depiction of Lise's progression in her prayers to what St. Teresa of Avila calls "the prayer of quiet" where no words are needed and Lise kneels in the presence of the Lord as the beloved in the presence of the lover.

(The entire section is 217 words.)