I decided to get this book after seeing it recommended by Kelly here, and realised we had a Rumer Godden title for my daughter called, “The Fairy Doll”, which she loves. I figured if she can write good chapter books for children, then my brain strain should not be too great when I try to tackle some of her adult fiction.
Kelly makes a good point about this book:
“In This House of Brede should be required reading for all high school aged girls.”
The book explores the lives of nuns as real nuns.. not over sentimentalised or shallow. You could perhaps even say the book explores the lives of people as real people. With all their gifts and struggles, the contemplative life is shown as a beautiful yet demanding life, and a very real option for real, ordinary, normal people (I think I need another word for ‘real’ but it ‘really’ is the best word I can think of). It is a life which so often is undervalued and the book does bring out the great work of the Church through the contemplative life.
Rumer Godden has a very insightful preface which explains her own personal relationship with Stanbrook Abbey in England, and the Mother Abbess’ request to see a book written about nuns as they really are. This was her mandate in researching this book, and she has done a remarkable job of demystifying the complex life of those in cloistered enclosures, without destroying the sense of wonder about this vocation.
The life of the Benedictine is a demanding one, beginning before sunrise and continuing well into the night. Busy is an understatement, which is a funny thing to say about a contemplative as I had imagined a lot more “space” in this kind of life, but really they do give God everything, even their spare moments, as a service to Him and His Church.
You would not be disappointed in reading this book, and I found it became a real page-turner which I had difficulty putting down (but I had to get some sleep!)
The tv miniseries based on this book was a bit of a disappointment, and I would definitely recommend you read the book first. The miniseries diverts significantly from the book on some points regarding the relationships between the nuns, although it does show some beautiful liturgical moments.
Enjoy the read!