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In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

In This House of Brede (1969)

by Rumer Godden

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0642611,868 (4.33)246
Recently added byJaneM1948, petermoccia, private library, mmschom, covertprestige, tkcs, have-Yasin-her, EllAreBee
Legacy LibrariesBarbara Pym
  1. 10
    The Song at the Scaffold by Gertrud von LeFort (inge87)
    inge87: About nuns facing execution during the French Revolution, a subject that has a key role in This House of Brede
  2. 00
    The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: The Corner That Held Them has a great deal of comedy and humor, while In This House of Brede is more serious in tone.
  3. 00
    The good sisters by Kathleen Whalen Fitzgerald (aulsmith)
  4. 00
    All We Know of Heaven: A Novel by Rémy Rougeau (Yervant)
    Yervant: Both of these works offer realistic windows into religious life with its joys and hard work and the realities of humans living in community together.

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» See also 246 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
”The motto was ‘Pax,’ but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Pax: peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort, seldom with a seen result; subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at nights, little comfort, sometimes scant food, beset with disappointments and usually misunderstood; yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love. ‘It is my own peace I give unto you.’ Not, notice, the world’s peace."

Does that sound like something you would sign up for? And yet, over the centuries men and women did just that in order to gain the previously mentioned ‘peace’, accompanied by joy, gratitude and love. Phillippa Talbot was one of those women. Widowed during WWII, she was a very successful professional woman who had traveled throughout the world and managed hundreds of employees but felt something was missing. She made the unusual decision to leave her life among the London elites and join a cloistered Benedectine abbey, the ancient seaside Brede abbey. The narrative describes in gripping terms, all the crises that face Phillippa and the other members of the community and the sensitive ways they all choose to deal with them. The author’s rich characterizations made me admire these women, even though they weren’t all likable. Godden converted to Catholicism in 1968, the year before she wrote this book and spent three years living at the gate of a Benedectine abbey in England.

I’m not sure I can put my finger on the reason I loved this book as much as I did but I think I’m in good company. Its average LT rating is 4.36. I seldom reread but Im keeping this book with plans to read it again at some point. Simply sublime. ( )
2 vote brenzi | Feb 23, 2018 |

I seem to be reading this again and doubting whether I've actually read it before.

I love it.

I am so glad I thought I'd read this before and decided to read it again. A superb book filled with many quiet moments and intense feeling. ( )
1 vote laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
"These walls are my shield", 1 May 2016

This review is from: In this House of Brede: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC Book 221) (Kindle Edition)
An entrancing read - even though I'm most definitely not a Catholic! Following the monastery of Brede over many years, in particular Philippa Talbot, a formerly married woman with a high-flying career. As the book opens, Philippa is just quitting her career and luxury life-style, stopping off for a final whisky and cigarette before entering her first stage of becoming a nun.
There's a large 'cast' of nuns (the book helpfully provides a list of who's who but the reader soon gets to know the different characters.) And although nothing earth shattering happens, it's constantly interesting. New postulants - and opposition from the friends and family they leave behind- , a new abbess, financial problems, sniping among the nuns , death ... and the everyday festivals and ceremonies, the beauty of the countryside, the peace.
Quite heart-rending in places: as Cecily takes her final vows -
"...Going to her father, threw her arms round him in a whirlwind hug, muffling her face against him. 'Goodbye Kitten.' It was a whisper and Cecily hugged him again. Then Bishop Mark gently took her from her father to Abbess Catherine. 'We thereby entrust to you our sister and pray that, under the guidance of the Holy Rule and through obedience she may deserve to obtain perfect union with God. May the peace of the Lord be always with you...'
He blessed Cecily who went through and the doors were shut."
Beautiful and enjoyable read. ( )
1 vote starbox | May 1, 2016 |
This is my favorite of her books because of the tension reflected in pesto all choice .... ( )
  AgentR | Aug 9, 2015 |
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden; (5+*)

Only 376 pages in this book and it took me more than a week to read it. More than a week to read the beauty that is this novel for I savored every word.

Philippa, who has been a wife and mother but is no longer either, is called at the age of 42 to a life serving Christ. She suffers the sadness of solitary existence, exhaustion that is mental, emotional and physical, the learning of new ways; all of the things a novice must go through on the journey to becoming a nun.

The enclosed order which Philippa enters is Brede Abbey and she enters to attempt her "vocation as a Benedictine" Sister. The House of Brede is located in the English countryside near the sea above the village of Brede. It has lovely gardens and pathways for the nuns to walk in their hour of recreation.

Shortly after she entered Brede Abbey, the Reverend Mother Lady Abbess Hester Cunningham Proctor, who was eighty five years of age and had served as Abbess of Brede for thirty two years, became ill and lay dying. As she lay on her death bed she tried repeatedly to tell the Sisters something and they knew that she was tormented by whatever it was but she died unable to speak the truths to them.

Abbesses of Brede Abbey were elected for life and after they put Abbess Hester to rest and mourned her the elder Sisters of the House met to elect a new Abbess and as one can imagine there were a great many comments from the Sisters on who would be best able to meet the needs of the community in the Abbey. Simply because one is a nun doesn't negate the humanity of the Sister and there were many a squabble and snapping that went on but eventually they elected their new Abbess and in all of the remainder of Philippa's time in this House, she served under the Lady Abbess Catherine Ismay.

In time as the accounting Sisters & the new Abbess went over the books and accounts of the Abbey, they came to realize that what the previous Abbess, Lady Abbess Hester, had been trying to tell them as she lay dying was that she had basically indebted the House of Brede to it's breaking point by too freely spending and mortgaging it's properties in order to have some much needed maintenance done to the buildings and in addition she met with and engaged a major sculptor to make for the Abbey new alter, crucifix, 2 side panels and a large sculpture of St. Benedict at huge expense. And so dealing with the financial strain of the Abbey is how the new Abbess is broken in to her new role within the monastery.

Philippa learns and grows so much in her novice years and after. She learns and becomes as one of the House as she never thought she could.

"To Philippa the chant was the nearest thing to birdsong she had ever heard, now solo, now in chorus, rising, blending, each nun knowing exactly when she had to do her part. On feast days, it took four chantresses to sing the Gradual in the Mass, four more for the Alleluias, rising up and up, until it seemed no human voice could sustain it."

"Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline; seven times a day--and the long office of Matins, not, as its name suggests, a morning prayer but rather, with its nocturns and lessons, its twelve psalms, the great night vigil of the Church. 'Yes, one suffers for the Office,' Dame Clare said. 'The getting up, and staying up; the continual interruption to ordinary work, singing no matter how one feels, day after day. Nuns have no holidays.'"

And so Philippa led this life of a nun in the House of Brede. As she learns so does the reader. As she sees the beauty of a life stripped down to nothing but being and giving of oneself as the need of the Abbey extends to each nun so does the reader. Rumer Godden has written a perfect and perfectly lovely novel of monastic life with In This House of Brede and I envy anyone their first reading of the novel. Godden's character developments are pitch on and though there are ever so many plot lines within this novel the reader never gets lost in the going from one to another. Likewise the reader never becomes confused with the ever so many characters. I think this novel pure brilliance.

"The life of the great monastery flowed as steadily as a river, no matter what rocks and cross-currents there were; Philippa often thought of the river Rother that wound through the marshes of Kent and Sussex, oldest Christendom in England, watering the meadows whose grass fed the famous marsh sheep, then winding below the town to the estuary that flowed to the sea. Brede Abbey was like that, thought Philippa, coming from far sources to flow through days, weeks, years, towards eternity." ( )
4 vote rainpebble | Aug 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rumer Goddenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Summit, S. A.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For J. L. H. D., who has endured us for five years.
First words
The motto was "Pax," but the word was set in a circle of thorns.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Per WorldCat, ISBN 1111644489 is for Lab Manual to Accompany Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology: Concepts, Procedures, and Troubleshooting Techniques, 7th Edition by William C Whitman
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Book description
'The motto was Pax but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort.'

Bruised by tragedy, Philippa Talbot leaves behind a successful career with the civil service for a new calling: to join an enclosed order of Benedictine nuns. In this small community of fewer than one hundred women, she soon discovers all the human frailties: jealousy, love, despair. But each crisis of heart and conscience is guided by the compassion and intelligence of the Abbess and by the Sisters' shared bond of faith and ritual. Away from the world, and yet at one with it, Philippa must learn to forgive and forget her past . . .
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0829421289, Paperback)

“A novel of sensitive dedication.” —The Atlantic Monthly
“Rumer Godden deals precisely with the theme of the religious life . . . as representing ‘the heart of holiness of the Church.’ It is at once a life of great peace and often equally intense struggle.” —America magazine
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. In this gripping narrative of the crises surrounding the ancient Brede abbey, Rumer Godden penetrates to the mysterious, inner heart of a religious community—a place of complexity and conflict, as well as joy and love. It is a place where Philippa, to her own surprise and her friends’ astonishment, finds her life by losing it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:32 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This extraodinarily senstitive and insightful portrait of religious life centers on Phillippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community. In this gripping narrative of the crises surrounding the ancient Brede abbey, Rumer Godden penetrates to the mysterious, inner heart of a religious community- a place of complexity and conflict, as well as joy and love. It is a place where Philippa, to her own surprise and her friends' astonishment, finds her life by losing it.… (more)

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