This is the novel that really made me want to be religious; it’s the novel that made me think about becoming a nun myself. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but it also lead to me discovering the Dominican Third Order, and, in turn, my parish, and my Dominican chapter there. That’s a lot for a novel to accomplish.
In This House of Brede follows the formation of Mrs. Philippa Talbot, a woman in her forties who feels called to enter the Benedictine Abbey of Brede, in England. While the monastery is fictional, the way of life and the people within it are clearly not–one will find people like this in any community. Godden gives a fascinating look at life inside a Benedictine monastery through not only Philippa’s lens, but also the new Abbess, Dame Catherine Ismay, two new postulants, Cecily and Hilary, and some of the other memorable women who make up this community.
Even if you’re not religious, I promise this book will speak to you. All the human emotions are present here–jealousy, ambition, love, friendship, desire, loss, abandonment. It’s hard to explain what the unique genius of this book is. All I know is that it has a unique genius that is unmatched in any book I’ve ever read, and is well worth reading, especially as we embark on the season of Lent today. Getting to know Brede and its inhabitants is well worth it. But be careful–it can inspire dangerous desires for religious vocation. 🙂