Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In this House of Brede

I am most indebted to everyone who suggested I read In This House of Brede. Darwin brought it home from the library for me last night. I sat down with the book right after dinner, and at twenty pages in had already drawn two conclusions:

1) This was going to be an absolutely gripping novel.
2) Rumer Godden is a consummate master of her craft.

In This House of Brede is an elegant and eloquent account of life in the Benedictine abbey of Brede, anchored (though not tethered) by the story of Phillipa, a wealthy businesswoman who leaves behind her worldly successes to follow her vocation. Godden never holds herself aloof from the complexities of ninety-odd women each trying in her own way to life out the Benedictine ideal. Instead, she creates a beautifully delineated picture of the joys, the consistency, and the sometime pettiness of the cloistered contemplative life, centered around the seven-fold structure of the Hours.

I read late into the night, finally turning the last page at 1:30. Tired as I was, I lay awake meditating on the life of a Benedictine: the series of prayers, the singing, the assigned tasks, the night vigils. Not half an hour later, as I washed a girl, dressed her again, stripped her bed, and put the sheets in the wash, I smiled to think that for all the differences, the night vigil is something the cloistered nun and mother of small children have in common.

*Addendum* Thanks especially to Entropy, who put the idea in my head.

11 comments:

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Oh, I'm so glad you got to read this novel. I think it is one of Rumer Godden's best. I got into Rumer Godden as a child reading her books about dolls. An Episode of Sparrows was the first of her adult novels which I read and the fact that it had a child as a protagonist really helped the transition. One of the things which struck me was that she presented Catholic characters in a far more positive manner than most British authors. I did not know until recently that she converted to Catholicism late in life.

Julie D. said...

WOOHOO!

One of the best books ever, as you know I think about practically all of her books. Try China Court now, or Tuesday's Child.

barbfromcincy said...

I read that book last spring and stayed up way too late reading it too...though I didn't finish in one day! It led me to read some of her other books, which I enjoyed, but that one has been my favorite so far.
Somebody sent me an email this week talking about how mothers do have these night vigils...times when we are up through the night and how we can use these times to pray for others...similarly to monks and nuns who keep prayerful watch through the night. They said that perhaps this is part of God's design for our vocation of motherhood. Just like you said here....awesome thought...
Hope you're having a blessed week!

Rick Lugari said...

Thanks especially to Entropy, who put the idea in my head.

Something paradoxical about that statement...

;)

Entropy said...

Well said!

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

An unforgettable book. Her Kitchen Madonna captivated the kids to no end when Husband read it aloud. I led a discussion on Battle of Vila Fiorita last summer. Lots there.

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

When I was about seven, I was given Rumer Godden's "Fairy Doll" for Christmas. I read it and reread it, and cried nearly every time. It was a magnificent children's book that I just loved.

Jennifer F. said...

I smiled to think that for all the differences, the night vigil is something the cloistered nun and mother of small children have in common.

Great point. Very interesting.

I never read fiction, but I might have to make an exception for this one.

Anonymous said...

Try The Story of Holly and Ivy. It's a children's Christmas story, and I read it every year.

Shannon said...

There was a movie made of "In This House of Brede" with Diana Rigg and Judi Bowker (who played St. Clare in "Brother Sun, Sister Moon"). While the book covers much more than the movie, the movie is well-done.

Shannon

mrsdarwin said...

Anon,

We picked up The Story of Holly and Ivy at a library book sale a year ago, and it's been a favorite with the girls here.

Shannon,

I'm adding the movie to my Netflix. I love Diana Rigg, so I'm already predisposed to like the film. :)