In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (1969)

In this house of Brede cover

From the 1969 Viking Press edition of In This House of Brede by Rumer GoddenPhilippa Talbot is a successful London career woman turned forty when she feels the call of the religious life. “I though I was very well as I was,” she told the Brede Sacristan later, “a human, balanced person with a reasonable record; with the luck of having money, friends, love.

Only suddenly it wasn’t enough.” She is one of the most attractive and sympathetic characters in Rumer Godden’s long and well-loved fictional roster.

This is a story of the life in an enclosed house of nuns and of the relevance of this contemplative existence to our changing world.

The novel unfolds chiefly through Philippa, from the day of her entrance, through one crisis of mind and heart to another, until she faces an ultimate and almost unbearable sacrifice.

Woven with her personal story is a much larger one — the story of the House, its history, and the present inmates who have vowed to live and die within its walls.


English Benedictine nuns

The nuns are English Benedictines whose House is centuries old in tradition, a stronghold of faith and prayer, yet they are up-to-date, alive, aware of the world. In Rumer Godden’s hands, they are fully realized individuals whom we come to know and care about, adding rich dimensions to the novel as they live out their vocations.

Through them, the book gives us on the outside a picture of how everyday religious life is lived, day in, layout “without sloth or haste” as St. Benedict’s Rule lays down.

Part of the novel’s attraction is its clear and abundant showing off the meaning of life to those who live it, of its rules and ritual. It is the mark of Rumer Godden’s unique magic that she immerses the reader wholly and unforgettably in the cloistered yet universal existence of her House of Brede.

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In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden

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About the author

Rumer Godden was born in Sussex County, England, but spent the greater part of her childhood in India. The first of her books to be widely read in America was Black Narcissus (1939), her third novel.

She published many novels and several memoirs including such favorites as Breakfast with the Nikolides, An Episode of Sparrows, and The Greengage Summer, as well as short stories, poems, children’s books, and the autobiographical Two Under the Indian Sun and A House With Four Rooms.

In This House of Brede took three years to write. To facilitate and authenticate the gathering of her material, Miss Godden was allowed to live at the gates of a Benedictine monastery in England, and to have help and advice from the nuns.

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Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

See also: Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

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