cover image Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love: Stories

Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love: Stories

Rumer Godden. William Morrow & Company, $16.95 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-688-08630-5

India was home to British authors Rumer and her late sister Jon during much of their lives. In this collection, stories of rare sensitivity shed light on widely various communities: lush Kashmir; upward-striving Bengal; utterly deprived Calcutta. Subtle humor animates three of four pieces by Jon, notably ``The Carpet,'' about a master of the soft sell who makes his costly treasures irresistible to the strongest will. These stories differ slightly in viewpoint from Rumer's contributions, two haunting narrative poems and seven adventures. But there are similarities also; as Rumer notes, she and Jon``felt intensely about the same things.'' The title character in Jon's ``Miss Passano'' grumbles about inconveniences while battering her small, defenseless niece for a minor mistake. In the collection's title story by Rumer, ``mercy, pity, peace and love'' are the qualities an ambitious student aims to investigate in his doctoral thesis, even as he is unmoved to such feelings surrounded by people suffering on Calcutta's teeming streets. (May)