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In This House of Brede

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This extraordinarily sensitive and insightful portrait of religious life centers on Philippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community.


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This extraordinarily sensitive and insightful portrait of religious life centers on Philippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community.

30 review for In This House of Brede

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    This is an astonishingly good book. I did not love the theme at all at first. I wanted to scream at Philippa not to join a monastery. It felt like the rest of the book could not possibly be interesting and yet, it was often quite exciting. By page 200 I would call this a page-turner, and yet why? Only surprisingly wonderful writing. My favorite part of this book was the grace shown to the failures of many of the women and how God worked all things together for good in realistic ways in each of t This is an astonishingly good book. I did not love the theme at all at first. I wanted to scream at Philippa not to join a monastery. It felt like the rest of the book could not possibly be interesting and yet, it was often quite exciting. By page 200 I would call this a page-turner, and yet why? Only surprisingly wonderful writing. My favorite part of this book was the grace shown to the failures of many of the women and how God worked all things together for good in realistic ways in each of their lives. This book was a beautiful testimony of how grace works in all of our lives. No, I do not want to join a monastery anymore now than when I started the book, but the life of faith rings true at Brede as well as in my own life among my own failings. I bought this book used in NJ at least 15 years ago and it has survived many, many purgings of my library and yet, I never found the gumption to read it. The theme was off-putting to me. Finally, with so many good reviews from friends, I pulled it off the shelf by my treadmill where it had been calling my name every time I walked or ran. Like Kristin Lavransdatter, some books must be read at the right moment in time. My time had come to read this one, hence the 5 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettyjane

    I re-read this book every year or so. The opening scene where the highly successful businesswoman Philippa is giving away treasured possessions which she will no longer need at Brede abbey, draws you right into this story. The community of Benedictine nuns are a fascinating bunch. Flawed yet likeable, they all have their own stories and Godden doesn't underdevelop any of them. I always felt this would make a sensational mini-series. The very good film starring the great Diana Rigg just can't mat I re-read this book every year or so. The opening scene where the highly successful businesswoman Philippa is giving away treasured possessions which she will no longer need at Brede abbey, draws you right into this story. The community of Benedictine nuns are a fascinating bunch. Flawed yet likeable, they all have their own stories and Godden doesn't underdevelop any of them. I always felt this would make a sensational mini-series. The very good film starring the great Diana Rigg just can't match the richness of the novel. This is a hard book to sell to non-Catholics, or non-religious for that matter. That's a shame, because it has alot to offer based on the sheer ability of Godden to create memorable characters.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    4.5★ A Goodreads friend (Barb) said about Rumer Godden that she never wrote the same book twice. I very much agree with this sentiment! Godden is a gifted writer with a fantastic imagination, who seems to go where the story takes her. So I was expecting this to be Phillipa's Story, a middle aged career woman who found a vocation &, after giving away all her possessions, joins a Benedictine monastery. But this story is much more than that and details the lives and often very human frailties of the nu 4.5★ A Goodreads friend (Barb) said about Rumer Godden that she never wrote the same book twice. I very much agree with this sentiment! Godden is a gifted writer with a fantastic imagination, who seems to go where the story takes her. So I was expecting this to be Phillipa's Story, a middle aged career woman who found a vocation &, after giving away all her possessions, joins a Benedictine monastery. But this story is much more than that and details the lives and often very human frailties of the nuns who live within the cloistered walls. If the solution to the monastery's financial crisis seems a little too miraculous, some other episodes had a heart rending realism. I certainly cried buckets when it was revealed how (view spoiler)[Dame Phillipa's little son had died. (hide spoiler)] Godden really knows how to touch the heart. Another weakness for me was that Sister Cecily seemed to be blamed for one nun's infatuation with with her. (view spoiler)[ Dame Maura was sent away, but to my modern, non religious eyes, I don't think either woman should be blamed. A very courageous tackling of the subject I thought. (hide spoiler)] Finally, this is a book that cries out for a dead tree reading. With so much to absorb, reading on my phone screen was very hard.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    I've read this at least three times before. It's interesting, because I am an atheist, but I find this book fascinating for its characterization of community life, particularly among women. I am interested in the way it explores a "humble" life--a life lived with a purpose other than financial growth or competition. The characters are very well drawn, the interactions are subtle and complex, and the result is a refreshing read. UPDATE 8/29/07: I just finished this again, and was once more taken w I've read this at least three times before. It's interesting, because I am an atheist, but I find this book fascinating for its characterization of community life, particularly among women. I am interested in the way it explores a "humble" life--a life lived with a purpose other than financial growth or competition. The characters are very well drawn, the interactions are subtle and complex, and the result is a refreshing read. UPDATE 8/29/07: I just finished this again, and was once more taken with the clear focus this book places on the ways people can change when they are determined to do it. A real look at the examined life and the community formed by a group of diverse personalities with a shared world view. (If you read it, check the math at the time of the vote. It just doesn't add up!)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne (Booklady) Molinarolo

    Deserving more than 5 Stars Last year, I saw that one of my Goodreads friend was reading this lengthy novel. I went to Barnes and Noble and found it there. But I didn't immediately open it as I thought I would. It has sat on my shelf staring at me. A few days ago, I pulled down In This House of Brede. I knew I was ready to read it. I had the queer feeling that I needed to read Brede. Perhaps, I know deep down that my Aunt Eloise may not be in this world much longer and that I needed the comfort Deserving more than 5 Stars Last year, I saw that one of my Goodreads friend was reading this lengthy novel. I went to Barnes and Noble and found it there. But I didn't immediately open it as I thought I would. It has sat on my shelf staring at me. A few days ago, I pulled down In This House of Brede. I knew I was ready to read it. I had the queer feeling that I needed to read Brede. Perhaps, I know deep down that my Aunt Eloise may not be in this world much longer and that I needed the comfort of reading something that I could be close to her in spirit. My aunt is a nun. She is not a cloistered nun as those in Brede, she belongs to the Order of Our Lady of Loretto, a teaching Order. Aunt Eloise's dementia has reduced her once great mind to only God knows what. She has become claustral within her own mind. But who knew that a story about an Abbey full of nuns could be so interesting? In This House of Brede has the love that a reader would expect. Love of God; love of and toward each sister or Dame as they called in the Benedictine Monastery. Brede is in crisis. The Abbess has died suddenly and the Abbey is on the brink of bankruptcy. There is deception, betrayal, and thievery. This is where the successful Philippa Talbot has come. The situation seems to be just right for her to help solve. Some of the nuns welcome her, while others question Philippa's vocation. I did too. I wasn't sure of her motive to become a Benedictine and wasn't sure if I really liked her. And some of the nuns are very hard to like. I feel guilty saying that I didn't like Dame Agnes or Dame Veronica. Must be that old Catholic guilt. I found the book beautiful, reminding me of the Liturgy and prayers from when I was a small child. The life of a cloistered nun is difficult as the book describes. We get to see some go through some inner struggles. We get to see the politics of the Council as the yearly positions are selected. We see each nun's strength and weakness. I loved the Liturgical year within each calendar year at the Abbey. I enjoyed the writing. It is exquisite. I know this little review hasn't said much about the plot - I can't really get it down on paper; Brede is just one of those books you have to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate Quinn

    I am neither religious nor Catholic; I abhor the idea of poverty, chastity, or obedience - yet this book made me want to join a nunnery. A fascinating portrayal of the contemplative life. And how nice to read a book about nuns that doesn't center on having a nun fall in love. I am neither religious nor Catholic; I abhor the idea of poverty, chastity, or obedience - yet this book made me want to join a nunnery. A fascinating portrayal of the contemplative life. And how nice to read a book about nuns that doesn't center on having a nun fall in love.

  7. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    I remember watching the movie first as a girl. A very youthful Diana Rigg plays Philippa who gives up everything to enter Brede. Later when I was older, I read the book, but I don't remember when and unfortunately I didn't write it down. It's an excellent study of women's spirituality, women living in community, one particular woman's journey, friendship and the essential nature of human relationships to our Divine Creator. It's a beautiful and haunting book. I've returned to it at various times I remember watching the movie first as a girl. A very youthful Diana Rigg plays Philippa who gives up everything to enter Brede. Later when I was older, I read the book, but I don't remember when and unfortunately I didn't write it down. It's an excellent study of women's spirituality, women living in community, one particular woman's journey, friendship and the essential nature of human relationships to our Divine Creator. It's a beautiful and haunting book. I've returned to it at various times in my life and with my own maturity gained new insights from it. Edited February 5, 2021 for outdated link. Really need and want to read this again!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fonch

    Ladies and gentlemen, I am ready to comment on the great discussion in this book. This reading was proposed by Mari Angels and in my opinion it has been quite a success, and an excellent proposition. At first I did not intend to write a review of this novel, since at first I found it more pressing to comment on a book that displeased me in this case we mean the "SapphireBook" by Gilbert Sinoue https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... which again abounds in the topics of the Black Legend, I also Ladies and gentlemen, I am ready to comment on the great discussion in this book. This reading was proposed by Mari Angels and in my opinion it has been quite a success, and an excellent proposition. At first I did not intend to write a review of this novel, since at first I found it more pressing to comment on a book that displeased me in this case we mean the "SapphireBook" by Gilbert Sinoue https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... which again abounds in the topics of the Black Legend, I also planned to say something about"Katherine" by Anya Seton https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3..., and compare it to Robert Hugh Benson's "With What Authority?" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... or say something about the interesting spiritual biography written by Holly Ordway https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... and there's always the user's plea who can ask me to write a review of any book , that you have read, as long as you remember details of the book. The first hit, which I think Rumer Godden has, is a shocking start. On the front pages we see the metheoric rise of a Philipa Talbot woman, and what is interesting is the approach with which Rumer Godden shows us. Not from the narrator's perspective, but from the point of view of one of his employees, who will then be wrapped in one of the sub-themes of the novel during the novel we mean Penny Stevens, a woman recently married to Donald. In the first few pages we see everything from his eyes, and does not fully understand Philipa Talbot's decision to abandon everything, nor does his most loyal employee Joyce Bowman understand, in fact no one at work understands why she is leaving a promising career, being one of the few women, who holds such a important position, there is only one partner who understands this decision, and we mean McTurk, who is not Catholic, but flirts with other spiritualities specifically Buddhism. In our discussion of the Catholic Book Club, and I very much agree that this novel is greatly influenced by the figure of the Trappist and convert Thomas Merton, who mixed Christianity with other Asian cults https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... for me this is no surprise, due to Rumer Godden's fascination with India. So this didn't surprise me. I lie, if you caught me, since in the second part this novel is going to take a surprising turn, which made the interest of this novel increase. At least in my opinion. I've given my impressions of the beginning, but godden's narrative is not traditional, or linear. We will see, which pastes leaps in time, intersperses events, which will occur later, also introduces reflections, and conversations of nuns. They explain to us why Philipa makes this decision. However, and I warn you, this novel does not focus on a main character, accompanied and enriched by a gallery of brilliant supporting characters, which enhances the qualities of the principal. This is not the case, in fact, I dare say, that Sister Philipa Talbot is not the main protagonist, but is the Benedictine abbey in which it is located. Which rumer Godden brilliantly does (by the way, and I'll tell an anecdote, to lighten the tension of my critique, and make it more enjoyable. If that were possible. I didn't know it, but I've seen it on Wikipedia, it seems that both Bruce Willis and Demi Moore named his daughter Rumer after Rumer Godden. It seems that both are great admirers of this writer, so they prove to have excellent taste). Because with this novel Rumer Godden wanted to make a tune of the Rule of St. Benedict in a female monastery https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... if you want a more simplified vision, or an approach to the figure of St. Benedict of Nursia we recommend Louis de Wohl's wonderful novel"Citadels of God" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... , qit is also very interesting, because it speaks of three other interesting historical characters Theodoric, Boecio, and Cassiodorus https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... https://www.goodreads.com/author/show.... In any case, the abbey stands the great protagonist of the novel. It's a microcosm with a rich hummus, which makes it possible for all stories, and subtramas to converge in this place. The novel is also a choral novel in which Philipa Talbot's character is highlighted, but is not the only character, but another character, whose story has an interest, but also that of the other nuns. This may be one of the catches, or the flaws, that could be put on this novel. There are several the first is that the novel is somewhat slow, and it takes a while to start, but when it does it hooks you without remission, especially to me it hooked me from the second part. Another flaw is the large number of nuns, in fact, this is a choral novel, and the fact that there are so many characters can throw back the potential readers of this novel. However, because even if there are so many characters, only ten nuns will be interested. My friend Professor Manuel Alfonseca https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... has done this same technique with his wife to indicate the ten most important nuns. Another matter, which may displease readers is that there is no plot, based on other subframes, but several subframes some are almost anecdotal, but I like the structure, which Rumer Godden has followed, because this is the life of a convent, and I think, that structure is the one that best suits history. However, this may do, despite Rumer Godden's interest that Philipa was sometimes delegated, or blurred against other stories, that are happening. This distinguishes itself a little from Henry Morton Robinson's "Cardinal" https://www.goodreads.com/author/show...# where it is analyzed, or focuses on a character. In this case in Stephen Fermoyle, really very inspired by Cardinal Spellman https://www.goodreads.com/author/show..., where the interest is focused on seeing the cursus honorum,or the social rise of the protagonist. Nor is it analyzing the life of a priest, and what goes on for a lifetime, as would happen in"The Keys of the Kingdom" by A.J. Cronin https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1..., we must also discard the ecclesiastical plots of Morris West https://www.goodreads.com/author/show..., nor is the system used by Bruce Marshall, telling the life of an annoid priest https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... though one thing if they have in common Bruce Marshall, and Rumer Godden in this novel, and it is that it is not a linear story, and there are several stories that is whatboth have in common. It's not the same either, but there were times when this novel reminded me of J.F. Powers' novel"Morte D'Urban" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1..., however the structure is different Rumer Godden as I said does not follow a linear structure going forward, going backwards. Tell stories of various characters, put in disgresions. Comment on aspects of the abbey's history and experiences. We see its origin from the havoc caused by the emergence of Protestantism (I refuse to call it, and I apologise to my non-Catholic audience, because that is not a Reformation, but an attempt to try to destroy the Catholic Church, creating national Churches subjected to secular powers), as you could already seein "With what authority?" https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and see the havoc of the other great European Revolution. Gertrude von Lefort already spoke of this subject with "The Last of theScaffold" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... or his remake written by Georges Bernanos https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... (by the way very intelligent Goodreads who puts as co-authors the two), or the books of Hochwalder https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... or the books of Philip Trower https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... (although in this case I think Trower more than talking about the bestthe church of the Revolution of what he speaks of is those exercised by the depotic illustration against the Jesuits. Recently following Hitler's persecution of gypsies at COPE it was said that the first attempt to destroy the Gypsies occurred during the illustration in the reign of Ferdinand VI with his prime minister El Marqués de la Ensenada). In fact, brede nuns exiled in France are expelled from there during the revolution and have to return to England with the only gift of a wooden cross donated by a Savoy princess, which will then be crucial in one of the novel's most important subtramas. In fact, this novel analyses two abbesses the octogenarian Esther Proctor Cunnighame, with a group of faithful, who initially gave a lot of glory to the convent, but in its final moments gave it as a kind of syndrome of Louis XIV, or of the crowned architect, and began to have favorites. The novel gives the reader two choices to believe that Esther Proctor Cunnighame is a visionary, as her supporters believe, or to believe that dementia ruined her later years, endangering Brede's future. Anyway, we'll see how her behavior toward Sister Julian isn't so illogical. We'll see a lot of deaths, which are going to condition Brede's future. Power struggles mostly between Sister Maura and Sister Agnes. How to opt for one of the two factions can unbalance Brede's ecosystem, and as Sister Katherine's choice is the best. As the plot of Sister Veronica the still life is solved, the subframes in which this character is wrapped are resolved with great skill, and intelligence, and how it is decided to take advantage of such a complicated character, and that will sometimes be a stone of scandal. The plot of the money issue led us to Catholic Book Club for a great debate. There were people, who opted for the providential vision of trusting in God, which is why Godden chooses. To base everything on prayer, and to despise Sister Philipa's involvement in worldly affairs. I opted for one of the extremes without rejecting the power of prayer. I opted for worldly intervention and Sister Philipa Talbot to use her experience in the world of work, to save the convent. But there were people who didn't applaud my vision. Anyway, the end of this sub-goal (which was not the one I was most interested in is a little brought by the hair). However, it was not the subtrama that displeased me the most, for example The character of Sister Cecily produced me a certain fed-up is true, which causes the events to go off and increase the drama, but I found this character too deachirent, and also tended to take the novel to the soap. Nor do I like your relationship with Sister Maura very much, I will never get to know if your union was friendship or the hint of a lesbian plot (if I am too ill thought out). Also the plot of the family opposition in this case the mother who had very ten-night prejudices a mentality of the convent, as if it came from a novel by Diderot https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... and the subject of the groom. It is true that it happens as discussed in the novels of Juan de Valera, or Armando Palacio Valdés or his story of"La San Sulpicio". It is true that Sister Cecily remains true to her vocation, but her interventions are too histrionic, melodramatic, and because she does not tell them hairy and tends to take this novel to the soap opera. Besides, I think, she's the spoiled child of the convent. Which made this character not as much to my liking as others.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    It's been too long since I've reread this. It was just what I needed. ========== A Good Story is Hard to Find #97). Let's face it. Reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden is the closest either Julie or Scott will come to being cloistered nuns ========== This is Godden's masterwork and I don't say that lightly. I'm not sure how many times I've read this book ... it could be six or it could be ten. You know a book's a classic when you learn something new about yourself every time you read it. Su It's been too long since I've reread this. It was just what I needed. ========== A Good Story is Hard to Find #97). Let's face it. Reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden is the closest either Julie or Scott will come to being cloistered nuns ========== This is Godden's masterwork and I don't say that lightly. I'm not sure how many times I've read this book ... it could be six or it could be ten. You know a book's a classic when you learn something new about yourself every time you read it. Such was the case this time around also. And it still made me cry at a couple of key points. It is about nuns in a cloistered convent but don't let that make you think you have to be religious to enjoy it. I read it when I was in my teens because it was around the house. My mother was an atheist but she owned it. I know I'd read it many times with great pleasure before even considering my own conversion. Author Jo Walton is on record as having loved this book for decades and she's not what you'd call a believer. She maintains that this book has an element of fantasy because there is a miracle in it. Even I at my most jaded considered the story to be realistic when including a miracle. However ... I often disagree with Walton's conclusions about books. Beautifully written, this book also is a nice introduction to Godden's fluid way of dealing with time which flows like a river with little eddies to the sides that swirl us back and forth as needed. Best of all is her thorough understanding of human nature, truth, and (in this case) the religious life. And a moving and engrossing story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gill

    I read this book following a personal recommendation, and I'm very pleased that I did read it. What I do know is that without this recommendation I probably wouldn't have looked at this book. That is because of the subject matter i.e. life for nuns in a Benedictine monastery. It's to the credit of the author that I found the book interesting, and the characters believable and well rounded. I enjoyed reading about the various rituals, although my favourite parts of the book were actually the aut I read this book following a personal recommendation, and I'm very pleased that I did read it. What I do know is that without this recommendation I probably wouldn't have looked at this book. That is because of the subject matter i.e. life for nuns in a Benedictine monastery. It's to the credit of the author that I found the book interesting, and the characters believable and well rounded. I enjoyed reading about the various rituals, although my favourite parts of the book were actually the author's descriptions of the countryside, the seasons, the plants and things like that. I found it relatively easy to distinguish between the various people that appeared in the story, and I followed their progresses with interest. Another book that I read recently was Conclave by Robert Harris. This look at life in the Vatican around the time of choosing a new Pope didn't interest me at all, and I found the characters written in a shallow way. What I now know after reading this book is that it wasn't the subject matter that stopped me being interested in Conclave, it was the writing style. I'll definitely be reading other books by Rumer Godden.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rtriptow

    Rumer Godden wrote the gripping 1939 novel Black Narcissus about a group of Anglican nuns who attempt to establish a convent school in a former harem palace in the foothills of the Himalayas, the result of which is failure, insanity, and death. Thirty years later Godden returned to the subject of nuns with In This House of Brede and explored it without much of the popular-fiction melodrama. The book was a best-seller anyway because it is fascinating, but it's less of a novel and more of a profil Rumer Godden wrote the gripping 1939 novel Black Narcissus about a group of Anglican nuns who attempt to establish a convent school in a former harem palace in the foothills of the Himalayas, the result of which is failure, insanity, and death. Thirty years later Godden returned to the subject of nuns with In This House of Brede and explored it without much of the popular-fiction melodrama. The book was a best-seller anyway because it is fascinating, but it's less of a novel and more of a profile of the cloistered life. Godden researched the book by spending three years in an abbey herself. In This House of Brede is primarily the story of Philippa Talbot, an extremely successful businesswoman and leader, a widow in her 40s who startlingly gives it all up to become a Benedictine nun. The challenges she faces as a postulant detail for the lay reader just how difficult it is to leave the active "outside" world to start a new life in a reflective order. Yet Philippa can never leave the past completely behind. It affects how she fits into the monastic order and the roles she must play, sometimes reluctantly, and she continues to be haunted by the loss of her family in the war. The final revelation of how she lost her young son is astonishing, horrifying, and very moving. Ultimately, however, In This House of Brede is the story of the entire community of religious women, their interactions and characters. A very satisfying read on that level.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Gomes

    I read this book in my teens, all through the Christmas Vacation of 1972. I neglected my studies, but have never regretted it. I have reread it many times and it never fails to grip me, the sheer beauty of the book leaves me in tears. Philippa Talbot, enters the Abbey of Brede when she is successful, at the peak of her career, leaving her friends astounded. The life that she had led, so far, was simply not enough. Yes, she chooses to leave all her worldly possessions in pursuit of a life as a Cloi I read this book in my teens, all through the Christmas Vacation of 1972. I neglected my studies, but have never regretted it. I have reread it many times and it never fails to grip me, the sheer beauty of the book leaves me in tears. Philippa Talbot, enters the Abbey of Brede when she is successful, at the peak of her career, leaving her friends astounded. The life that she had led, so far, was simply not enough. Yes, she chooses to leave all her worldly possessions in pursuit of a life as a Cloistered Benedictine nun. She knocks on the door of the Abbey of Brede and softly tells the Mother Abbess, 'I wish to try my vocation as a Benedictine nun in this house of Brede,' that is when the real story begins. This novel with its many characters can be recognized as one of the most realistic explorations of religious life in literature. So much goes on behind those Abbey walls, but always within a framework of prayer, sacrifice, and love. Prayer, sung in choir and personal prayer alone at the foot of the Cross. Prayer says one of the nuns 'Is our craft. . . . The craft of a contemplative religious, as a good workman, and as an artist loves his craft, we must delight in ours.' The nuns find solace and peace in their devotion to continual prayer. Their special calling is to honor God through prayer, and to change the world by doing so. What was touching for me is that lay people could ask the nuns to intercede for them during their times of need. Sacrifice, when you are thrown in the midst of so many nuns, there are so many different ‘sacrifices’ that are expected of you. Dame Agnes, for example resents Dame Philippa for her superior learning, Dame Agnes also resents her rival the poet Dame Veronica. So many emotions, jealousies, loneliness and rancor plague the lives of the fellow 'sisters.' The life of a cloistered Benedictine nun is in no way the quiet oasis that many of us fantasize a cloistered life to be. Love, becoming a nun means you are in the midst of women from very different backgrounds, who you are not related to and who you have to love regardless. Love is not naturally innate. Indeed, as a nun, love towards the other sisters is many times a great sacrifice and a gift that requires the grace of God. By continuous prayer, sacrifice, the thought of others before self, Philippa learns to love each of the nuns equally, cherishing their varied foibles and their different natures. However, just like in any marriage, where there are times when it is so very difficult to love one’s spouse, This House of Brede tells us that it is equally difficult to find the will to love the Nuns, in a cloister. This beautiful book emphasizes that what one does with one's own life is a personal choice, the choice aided by God. Thus, although we might want our lives to take a certain path, our Lord might have something entirely different in mind for us – perhaps more beautiful- but He will give us the strength and His love to do it. On a personal note, I know that sometimes we yearn for a certain something, it could be a person, it could be a job and we pray for it with all our heart. We need to 'get this one thing' but there are times 'this desire' turns out to be truly unsuitable for us but God in his infinite capacity for Love helps us through these difficult time of our lives too.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rick Slane

    I am currently looking for books that aren't about war, concentration camps or genocide, since I feel I've read enough of them recently. This was a book recommended to me by the Goodreads Bot because I read Kristin Lavransdatter and Island of the World both Catholic books. I'm not Catholic, but I enjoyed all three books very much. Why would a 40 year old woman with a successful career want to become a nun? The answer unfolds slowly and gently along with at least two other engrossing subplots. If I am currently looking for books that aren't about war, concentration camps or genocide, since I feel I've read enough of them recently. This was a book recommended to me by the Goodreads Bot because I read Kristin Lavransdatter and Island of the World both Catholic books. I'm not Catholic, but I enjoyed all three books very much. Why would a 40 year old woman with a successful career want to become a nun? The answer unfolds slowly and gently along with at least two other engrossing subplots. If you enjoyed Jayber Crow or At Home in Mitford I recommend this book to you.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julie Durnell

    A wonderful story of life in a Benedictine abbey. The hierarchy of the nuns/sisters/dames was very interesting and how each woman brought something of themselves into this religious order and learned to surrender and serve made this enjoyable to read. Phillipa was somewhat of an enigma but she carries this story wonderfully.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    I read this back in 2006 or soon after it was published. When I was a girl I read several biographies of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (took her name for my Confirmation name) and also much about the Carmelite cloisters of France- and how she had lived her life. It is not that dissimilar (different era, different context of knowledge maybe)than this woman's experience. And I also went to Catholic All GIRLS High School at the same location as the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate near Chicago and so ha I read this back in 2006 or soon after it was published. When I was a girl I read several biographies of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (took her name for my Confirmation name) and also much about the Carmelite cloisters of France- and how she had lived her life. It is not that dissimilar (different era, different context of knowledge maybe)than this woman's experience. And I also went to Catholic All GIRLS High School at the same location as the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate near Chicago and so have spent time (years) within the Novitiate there too, as a friend had joined. So this book, to me, is not just words. Some of it brought back real memories. In this age of ethics that are basically "if it works for me" it is "ok"- I love the idealism and the contemplation of the faithful, those women who are full of love who hold this set of morality and example. The truly faithful who are not diverted by the "more evolved" intelligensia of modern group think and media fodder. Those who come to God on their own, so to speak. And also believe in hope and a strong personal responsiblity. But then, I am Catholic. So I understand how the sacrifice of negation to a personal life that holds numerous human or family relationships with lots of communication except the relationships with each other, how giving that up, could be worth it. The relationships of those nuns, if you liked reading about those connections within cloister, you might like to read Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. All the peace will eventually come from their hours. Not from the wise and logical and knowing better. I'm sure of it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linera

    I re-read this book every few years, when my soul feels dusty.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    A reread for me of course, but it just does not disappoint! So rich in human experience and Godden has such a way of making the interior dramatic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Re-read: 4/30/2015. Devastating every single time, and I hate when it's over, because I just want to read about these people forever. Everybody should read it. This is quite a book. What is so interesting and wonderful about In This House of Brede is that while it is in effect a novel about one woman's journey from successful career woman to Benedictine nun, Godden reveals to us the struggles and thoughts of a multitude of women. As several of the nuns point out throughout the novel, it is so eas Re-read: 4/30/2015. Devastating every single time, and I hate when it's over, because I just want to read about these people forever. Everybody should read it. This is quite a book. What is so interesting and wonderful about In This House of Brede is that while it is in effect a novel about one woman's journey from successful career woman to Benedictine nun, Godden reveals to us the struggles and thoughts of a multitude of women. As several of the nuns point out throughout the novel, it is so easy to forget that nuns are women first. The monastery is a community of people, some of whom are witty, some of whom are kind and gentle, some of whom are elegant and beautiful. But you forget that women who have chosen the contemplative life are in fact living a life. And it was amazing to me how the time went by. It took me a few days to read this book, but over ten years passed in the rich life of this monastery. I need to also note that this book brought me to tears several times. One of the most powerful scenes I have ever read was the whole sequence of the electing of Abbess Catherine Ismay. I found myself in tears when, overwhelmed, the new abbess collapsed into the arms of Sister Ellen, the claustral (lay) sister who was in charge of tending the abbess' rooms. And later, when Dame Philippa told the abbess and prioress about her son's death, twenty years earlier. Devastating. And then again, when Dame Maura confessed to the abbess that she was too fond of Cecily and had to go to Canada for five years. Oh, and then when Dame Colette died so suddenly--elegant Dame Colette. It is a testament to Godden's talent that I felt so attached to these women whose lifestyle and beliefs are so disparate from mine. Astonishing, beautiful, moving book. Upon re-reading, 10/2013: I'm not sure I have anything to add. I had forgotten many of the plot specifics, so re-reading was a real treat. This book is a masterpiece. It might be time for me to own a copy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

    Wow. My reading challenge included reading a book over 500 pages. I never expected that a book about a woman who enters the cloister could possibly be so riveting. I stayed up late to read this, several nights in a row. Phillipa is so approachable and relatable. This successful woman leaves her comfortable job and apartment to enter the cloister - and many of the Dames think that she won't be successful because she's lived too long in the world. What I so enjoyed about the book is that the Dames Wow. My reading challenge included reading a book over 500 pages. I never expected that a book about a woman who enters the cloister could possibly be so riveting. I stayed up late to read this, several nights in a row. Phillipa is so approachable and relatable. This successful woman leaves her comfortable job and apartment to enter the cloister - and many of the Dames think that she won't be successful because she's lived too long in the world. What I so enjoyed about the book is that the Dames (sisters) were so relatable. They struggled with anger, jealously, fear - just like we all do. I also so appreciated the rhythm of the liturgical year and how it is tied to the seasons. As the many seasons passed in the book, it brought a peaceful depth to my heart. I highlighted quite a bit of this book - there are lots of deep, theological points to ponder - especially regarding surrender, acceptance, and love of God.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    Exquisite! I was enchanted by the author's view of the world as presented in the microcosm of an abbey of Benedictine nuns. The setting may be specific to England of the 1950s and '60s, but the personal interactions between the members of this religious community are universal and timeless. There are no cardboard cut-out saints to be found; all of the women are so real, with all of the graces and faults that go with being human. Over the course of the book I developed my favorites--how could I not? Exquisite! I was enchanted by the author's view of the world as presented in the microcosm of an abbey of Benedictine nuns. The setting may be specific to England of the 1950s and '60s, but the personal interactions between the members of this religious community are universal and timeless. There are no cardboard cut-out saints to be found; all of the women are so real, with all of the graces and faults that go with being human. Over the course of the book I developed my favorites--how could I not? I love the Abbess, Mother Catherine, who is so steadfast; I became quite fond of young Hilary, who is so warm and cheerful. I wanted to comfort Philippa--so deeply wounded, but trying her best to carry on. I came away from the book feeling comforted and at peace. This one is a keeper.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    This is a beautifully written book, not it the sense that it is lyrical long sentences and you can only read small dose at the time , but beautifully written in the sense of the depiction on human nature. This book showed the flaws and the strength in all of us. How vocation isn't sainthood but a journey of transformation. And there was lots of comical anecdote that made it an captivating read. Highly recommend This is a beautifully written book, not it the sense that it is lyrical long sentences and you can only read small dose at the time , but beautifully written in the sense of the depiction on human nature. This book showed the flaws and the strength in all of us. How vocation isn't sainthood but a journey of transformation. And there was lots of comical anecdote that made it an captivating read. Highly recommend

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kupersmith

    This was the perfect read for self-isolating, a story of women monastics. I felt so deeply immersed in Benedictine spirituality that when I looked out my front window I almost expected to see a cloister. If prayer were an Olympic event, the nuns at Brede would be gold medalists. Seven times a day, from Vigils at 4 am to Compline at 8.30 pm they chant the daily office in Latin, praying for their community, for the world, and for people outside who have asked their intercessions. Though they would This was the perfect read for self-isolating, a story of women monastics. I felt so deeply immersed in Benedictine spirituality that when I looked out my front window I almost expected to see a cloister. If prayer were an Olympic event, the nuns at Brede would be gold medalists. Seven times a day, from Vigils at 4 am to Compline at 8.30 pm they chant the daily office in Latin, praying for their community, for the world, and for people outside who have asked their intercessions. Though they would appear cut off from the world, they are continually involved. The monastery is a kind of spiritual power station, generating praise, thanksgiving, and intercessions for those in need. The story begins in the mid 1950s and the main character is Philippa Talbot, a forty year old senior civil servant, apparently in something like the Treasury. Her husband died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, and we discover much later that she is also a bereaved mother. At mid life she discovers a vocation to join a cloistered order of nuns. In the book we follow her career from postulant to taking her final vows, which bestows on her the title of Dame Philippa. The standard of obedience and humility, as well as the primitive washing facilities, would frighten most contemporary readers away. As the Abbess reminds them, they endeavour to live like the poor, and fifty percent of English families then didn’t have bathrooms. The nuns regard themselves as ‘Brides of Christ’ and the ceremony of being accepted by the order, called ‘Clothing’ involves an actual wedding ceremony with a bridal gown, much to the chagrin of the rejected fiancé and the mother of one of the characters. As C. S.Lewis remarked of Spenser’s allegory, it wasn’t that Spenser was Catholic, it’s that the Catholic Church is allegorical. Some of the trapping, like the grills that separate the nuns from visitors, do rouse in me some Protestant misgivings. Yet I admired them greatly. Still, after I finished I felt some artistic flaws. It seemed a little too convenient that Philippa had lived in Japan and spoke Japanese, and we’re not told when or how she got there . And the gripping story of the death of her young son, which she finally tells the Abbess, surely would not have been concealed so long. It would have formed a major element of the process of discerning her vocation. An episode containing a crush between two members of the order was handled well, and generally Abbess Catherine was a wonderful portrait of a spiritually and practically wise woman. Now, some sixty years later, this species of spirituality is yet rarer. I notice that the monastery that served as the model for Brede is now a luxury hotel and a venue for wedding parties - how ironic. And as an Anglican, I thought that the Abbess ought to be ordained and preside at the eucharist. They certainly were expert liturgists and Dom Gervase, their chaplain, rather a wimp. Vatican II is a crucial event in the book for the nuns, but when this book was published in 1969 I doubt many of us realised this form of spirituality would be almost extinct in half a century. But it always will be an ideal and a model for all of us who are following a spiritual path, whether in a cloister or out in the open world. Everybody works, everybody studies, everybody prays whether indoors or out.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    What do you ask? To try my vocation as a Benedictine in this house of Brede. I was mesmerized by this quiet novel about a community of cloistered nuns, which begins with Philippa, a sophisticated, cosmopolitan businesswoman, giving away her possessions in preparation for entering Brede as a novice - at the age of 42. It’s a character-driven novel, with little in the way of plot. There are about 96 nuns living at Brede (there’s a rather daunting dramatis personæ at the beginning) and the novel focus What do you ask? To try my vocation as a Benedictine in this house of Brede. I was mesmerized by this quiet novel about a community of cloistered nuns, which begins with Philippa, a sophisticated, cosmopolitan businesswoman, giving away her possessions in preparation for entering Brede as a novice - at the age of 42. It’s a character-driven novel, with little in the way of plot. There are about 96 nuns living at Brede (there’s a rather daunting dramatis personæ at the beginning) and the novel focuses on perhaps a dozen of them. The story covers the lives of these women for fourteen years, beginning with Philippa’s entrance in 1954. One of my favorite quotes from author Connie Willis: “The entire range of human experience is present in a church choir, including, but not restricted to jealousy, revenge, horror, pride, incompetence (the tenors have never been on the right note in the entire history of church choirs, and the basses have never been on the right page), wrath, lust and existential despair.” Monastics are more focused than your average church choir, of course, and they are rigorously screened for the difficulties of a cloistered life; but they are as human as anyone, and it’s fascinating to watch them living this life of tremendous discipline, and experiencing both the challenge and the great joy of their vocation. Also of great interest is the practical information about their lives at Brede. There’s a class system: educated, upper-class women become “choir nuns”, while the lower-class women become “claustral nuns” and do most of the manual labor. (The novel follows mostly the daily lives of the choir nuns, and I rather wished it had spent more time with the claustral sisters.) One of my favorite sections was the process of electing a new abbess, and the poignant perspective of the chosen woman. My only quibble with the plot is that too many of the abbey’s problems are solved by Philippa. Her skills and experience and contacts in the outside world prove rather convenient. Still, it's a glorious novel, and I’ll look for more of Godden’s work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    2021 This book is such a gem and was even better with a second read. 2019 I wonder if my life would be drastically different if I had read this book as a single woman. This simple and heart warming story brings to life what it means to be a cloistered nun. Our modern utilitarian culture invaded my thinking more than I thought and I've realized I've always been puzzled over the value of the cloistered life. Philippa's story, as well as the story of other characters, demonstrates the struggles, sa 2021 This book is such a gem and was even better with a second read. 2019 I wonder if my life would be drastically different if I had read this book as a single woman. This simple and heart warming story brings to life what it means to be a cloistered nun. Our modern utilitarian culture invaded my thinking more than I thought and I've realized I've always been puzzled over the value of the cloistered life. Philippa's story, as well as the story of other characters, demonstrates the struggles, sacrifices and triumphs of daily life behind the grills. I loved this book and will be giving it to all young women as confirmation presents! I'm also adding Saint Cecilia's abbey in Southern England, which was the author's basis for Brede, to my list of places to visit the next time we are able to go to Europe!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This book has profound meaning for me...it's about a group of contemplative nuns. If you've ever gotten sick and tired of living in the mundane world, I highly recommend picking up this book. It shows just how hard nuns work, and how their struggles with each other are no different than the struggles that most people have in modern life. Still, there is something beautiful and holy about THIS HOUSE OF BREDE that makes me want to shuck off my sweat pants and don a habit. Especially when the bills This book has profound meaning for me...it's about a group of contemplative nuns. If you've ever gotten sick and tired of living in the mundane world, I highly recommend picking up this book. It shows just how hard nuns work, and how their struggles with each other are no different than the struggles that most people have in modern life. Still, there is something beautiful and holy about THIS HOUSE OF BREDE that makes me want to shuck off my sweat pants and don a habit. Especially when the bills come due.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    Beautiful writing, this book doesn’t really have a plot, but follows an older successful British widow as she gives up her civil service career to enter a Benedictine monastery. I was amazed at how absorbing it could be to get to know this diverse group of nuns, following them through the years, broken up into liturgical seasons. So much happens in this closed community, it was lovely and I know I’ll want to reread it again! A peaceful, contemplative read that I enjoyed very much - read with the Beautiful writing, this book doesn’t really have a plot, but follows an older successful British widow as she gives up her civil service career to enter a Benedictine monastery. I was amazed at how absorbing it could be to get to know this diverse group of nuns, following them through the years, broken up into liturgical seasons. So much happens in this closed community, it was lovely and I know I’ll want to reread it again! A peaceful, contemplative read that I enjoyed very much - read with the Retro Reads group.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    I LOVED this book. It is such a faithful, warm and real portrayal of women, women who are very easy to connect with, despite their cloistered life. Rumer G's writing style suited me perfectly. She slips in dialoge in an interesting way, almost like asides, that made me feel like I was a confidant, or I was in the room with the women. There were scenes that made me laugh, that made me cry, times I was shocked and times I felt awe. Just lovely, and perfect for Lent. I LOVED this book. It is such a faithful, warm and real portrayal of women, women who are very easy to connect with, despite their cloistered life. Rumer G's writing style suited me perfectly. She slips in dialoge in an interesting way, almost like asides, that made me feel like I was a confidant, or I was in the room with the women. There were scenes that made me laugh, that made me cry, times I was shocked and times I felt awe. Just lovely, and perfect for Lent.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    What a delightful read! I never thought I could be so enthralled reading a book about the simple, daily lives of nuns, but it was so real and entertaining. People are still people even in a holy place like an Abbey. I laughed and cried and thoroughly enjoyed this book. My advice would be to savor it, it is such an enjoyable and satisfying read. It's going on the shelf with my favorite books that I love to read over and over again. What a delightful read! I never thought I could be so enthralled reading a book about the simple, daily lives of nuns, but it was so real and entertaining. People are still people even in a holy place like an Abbey. I laughed and cried and thoroughly enjoyed this book. My advice would be to savor it, it is such an enjoyable and satisfying read. It's going on the shelf with my favorite books that I love to read over and over again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Alfonseca

    ENGLISH: A good depiction of life in a monastery of Benedictine nuns, better than Black Narcissus, in my opinion. Sometimes this book seems like a novel of intrigue, as the characters hide their past or their projects, and their secrets are discovered little by little. ESPAÑOL: Buena descripción de la vida en un monasterio de monjas benedictinas. En mi opinión, es mejor que Narciso Negro. A veces este libro parece una novela de intriga, pues los personajes ocultan su pasado o sus proyectos, y sus s ENGLISH: A good depiction of life in a monastery of Benedictine nuns, better than Black Narcissus, in my opinion. Sometimes this book seems like a novel of intrigue, as the characters hide their past or their projects, and their secrets are discovered little by little. ESPAÑOL: Buena descripción de la vida en un monasterio de monjas benedictinas. En mi opinión, es mejor que Narciso Negro. A veces este libro parece una novela de intriga, pues los personajes ocultan su pasado o sus proyectos, y sus secretos se van descubriendo poco a poco.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mariangel

    Excellent. It may sound surprising that a 400-page book about a monastery of cloistered nuns may be a page-turner. But it is not so surprising if one is familiar with Rumer Godden's fluid writing, with her talent in creating characters that are fully alive, and with her compassion as she show us their weaknesses. Philippa Talbot enters the monastery in her forties after a successful career, and her story is the main arc of the book, but many chapters deal in depth with some of other nuns. As we Excellent. It may sound surprising that a 400-page book about a monastery of cloistered nuns may be a page-turner. But it is not so surprising if one is familiar with Rumer Godden's fluid writing, with her talent in creating characters that are fully alive, and with her compassion as she show us their weaknesses. Philippa Talbot enters the monastery in her forties after a successful career, and her story is the main arc of the book, but many chapters deal in depth with some of other nuns. As we get to know them, we learn about the liturgies, customs, and the year in the monastery. One surprising event after another keep us engaged in the life of Brede.

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