THREE nuns are struggling to keep their convent afloat. The Order of the Sisters of St Philomena is perilously low on numbers, and those who remain are no longer in charge of their beloved convent school. Their home is in need of expensive repairs, and their parish church has a hole in the roof.
Sisters Margaret (a former teacher and now the despairing Mother Superior), Bridget (Irish, an enthusiastic cook), and Cecilia (90, and passionately committed to the convent’s founder, Sir Edward Mortimer) are faced with the prospect of selling up and leaving the community that they feel they are called to serve.
As this is the 1990s, the National Lottery has just been launched. Sister Cecilia decides that this is the answer to their prayers — and there follow a series of “small miracles” that changes their fortunes.
Sub-characters appear: Father Hugh, who eats too much of Sister Bridget’s wonderful cooking; George, the soft-hearted travel agent with a demanding mother; and Matthew, the lonely art expert, and his twin sister, Sarah. A series of adventures and (highly improbable) coincidences follow; secrets are disclosed, copious tears are shed, and the book concludes on a note of optimism.
According to The Bookseller, comfort reads are in vogue right now. This story is certainly a sweet and gentle one. There are themes of sorrow and loss, love and friendship, faith and despair.
Anne Booth has several children’s books under her belt, but this is her first for adults. The acknowledgements show that producing it has been a labour of love. She writes with compassion. The depiction of the Sisters is particularly sympathetic; their struggles with each other are very human.
But Call the Midwife with its earthiness this is not. It is an undemanding read, light and fluffy as cappuccino. All a bit too cosy for this reviewer.
Sarah Meyrick is a novelist. Her latest novel is Joy and Felicity (Sacristy Press, 2021).
Harvill Secker £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.49