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In This House of Brede

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  2,310 Ratings  ·  355 Reviews
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.
Paperback, 672 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Loyola Classics (first published January 1st 1969)
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Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughThe Power and the Glory by Graham GreeneThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. LewisThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Catholic Fiction
24th out of 421 books — 350 voters
In This House of Brede by Rumer GoddenSacred Hearts by Sarah DunantThe Nun's Story by Kathryn HulmeThe Nun by Denis DiderotThe Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis
1st out of 117 books — 71 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 20, 2008 Bettyjane rated it it was amazing
I re-read this book every year or so. The opening scene where the highly successful businesswoman Philippa is giving away treasured possessions which she will no longer need at Brede abbey, draws you right into this story. The community of Benedictine nuns are a fascinating bunch. Flawed yet likeable, they all have their own stories and Godden doesn't underdevelop any of them. I always felt this would make a sensational mini-series. The very good film starring the great Diana Rigg just can't ...more
Aug 29, 2007 Lydia rated it it was amazing
I've read this at least three times before. It's interesting, because I am an atheist, but I find this book fascinating for its characterization of community life, particularly among women. I am interested in the way it explores a "humble" life--a life lived with a purpose other than financial growth or competition. The characters are very well drawn, the interactions are subtle and complex, and the result is a refreshing read.

UPDATE 8/29/07: I just finished this again, and was once more taken w
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
Deserving more than 5 Stars

Last year, I saw that one of my Goodreads friend was reading this lengthy novel. I went to Barnes and Noble and found it there. But I didn't immediately open it as I thought I would. It has sat on my shelf staring at me. A few days ago, I pulled down In This House of Brede. I knew I was ready to read it. I had the queer feeling that I needed to read Brede. Perhaps, I know deep down that my Aunt Eloise may not be in this world much longer and that I needed the comfort o
Nov 29, 2008 Rtriptow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rumer Godden wrote the gripping 1939 novel Black Narcissus about a group of Anglican nuns who attempt to establish a convent school in a former harem palace in the foothills of the Himalayas, the result of which is failure, insanity, and death. Thirty years later Godden returned to the subject of nuns with In This House of Brede and explored it without much of the popular-fiction melodrama. The book was a best-seller anyway because it is fascinating, but it's less of a novel and more of a profil ...more
May 01, 2015 Anne rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Davis
A Good Story is Hard to Find #97). Let's face it. Reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden is the closest either Julie or Scott will come to being cloistered nuns


This is Godden's masterwork and I don't say that lightly.

I'm not sure how many times I've read this book ... it could be six or it could be ten. You know a book's a classic when you learn something new about yourself every time you read it. Such was the case this time around also. And it still made me cry at a couple of
Sep 04, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to escape
Shelves: favorites, dreamlives
This book has profound meaning for's about a group of contemplative nuns. If you've ever gotten sick and tired of living in the mundane world, I highly recommend picking up this book. It shows just how hard nuns work, and how their struggles with each other are no different than the struggles that most people have in modern life. Still, there is something beautiful and holy about THIS HOUSE OF BREDE that makes me want to shuck off my sweat pants and don a habit. Especially when the bills ...more
Kate Quinn
May 04, 2009 Kate Quinn rated it it was amazing
I am neither religious nor Catholic; I abhor the idea of poverty, chastity, or obedience - yet this book made me want to join a nunnery. A fascinating portrayal of the contemplative life. And how nice to read a book about nuns that doesn't center on having a nun fall in love.
Rick Slane
Feb 08, 2016 Rick Slane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am currently looking for books that aren't about war, concentration camps or genocide, since I feel I've read enough of them recently. This was a book recommended to me by the Goodreads Bot because I read Kristin Lavransdatter and Island of the World both Catholic books. I'm not Catholic, but I enjoyed all three books very much. Why would a 40 year old woman with a successful career want to become a nun? The answer unfolds slowly and gently along with at least two other engrossing subplots. If ...more
Sonia Gomes
Mar 09, 2009 Sonia Gomes rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who have a liking for religious orders
Recommended to Sonia by: Carmel College Library
I read this book when I was in my teens, all through the Christmas Vacation of 1972. I neglected my studies, but I do not regret it. I reread it many times and it never fails to grip me and the sheer beauty of the book leaves me in tears.
Philippa Talbot enters the Abbey of Brede when she is successful, at the peak of her career, all her friends are astounded, but for her the life that she had led was simply not enough. Yes, she chooses to leave all her worldly possessions in pursuit of a life as
Jamie Collins
Apr 25, 2016 Jamie Collins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: monastic
What do you ask?
To try my vocation as a Benedictine in this house of Brede.

I was mesmerized by this quiet novel about a community of cloistered nuns, which begins with Philippa, a sophisticated, cosmopolitan businesswoman, giving away her possessions in preparation for entering Brede as a novice - at the age of 42.

It’s a character-driven novel, with little in the way of plot. There are about 96 nuns living at Brede (there’s a rather daunting dramatis personæ at the beginning) and the novel focus
Jul 05, 2007 Tera rated it liked it
Shelves: pastreads
This book taught me a lot about cloister life. After growing up catholic, I wish these nuns were the ones to teach me. Maybe I would still feel like a catholic today. The nuns in the community focused on self-improvement and discipline, hard work, everyone had a function, everyone was needed in the community. Even though the book went into great detail about the daily habits, ceremonies, traditions the nuns kept, it went into little detail about the power of prayer. The author did not quite ...more
If a 600+ page novel on a Benedictine monastery sounds dry to you, fear not! Godden tells a marvelous story that is not in the least dull. This book contains nuanced character development, an easy-to-read storytelling style, and plots and subplots that keep the pages turning. For me, there is also something unexpectedly comforting about the rhythmic, rich inner world of this cloistered community. Beyond just being a thoroughly enjoyable story, this book helped me to understand and appreciate so ...more
Mar 12, 2008 Lara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic
I LOVED this book. It is such a faithful, warm and real portrayal of women, women who are very easy to connect with, despite their cloistered life. Rumer G's writing style suited me perfectly. She slips in dialoge in an interesting way, almost like asides, that made me feel like I was a confidant, or I was in the room with the women. There were scenes that made me laugh, that made me cry, times I was shocked and times I felt awe. Just lovely, and perfect for Lent.
Ashley FL
Jul 08, 2013 Ashley FL rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-reads
I loved this book. I had feared it would be heavy or require a lot of thought. It did, in fact, cause me to think a lot, but not to try and figure out what happened or what it meant. This was a wonderful study of one woman's life in a monestary. How she decided to enter, the history of her life beforehand, how she lives the rest of her life once she takes her vows.

I also learned a lot about the religion and beliefs of the Benedictine order.

Maybe it just caught me at an opportune time, being righ
Dec 03, 2007 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults
Rumer Godden is a prolific writer who converted to Catholicism as an adult. She is brilliant at character development and her characters are fully fleshed out and so very interesting. In this novel, we follow a woman as she discerns her vocation as a nun. We see her whole life in segments as she learns to adust to her life in cloister. Fabulous read!!!
I'm pretty sure I can't write a review worthy of this book yet. But it was very good.
Sep 12, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it
Advice for future readers:
1. I do not recommend this as the first book by Rumer Godden to read.
2. read the preface
3. read the publisher's note at the end before starting the book. This is glossary/description of the Benedictine Life. I didn't notice it until I'd finished, instead I just read the wikipedia page about Benedictines which isn't as informative.
4. mark the page with the list of characters, you might find it helpful to keep biographical notes, too.

Now, my review:

Another Rumer Godden
Maureen E
Nov 15, 2008 Maureen E rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This is, in my opinion, a most enchanting book. It is the story of a number of years in the life of Brede Abbey, a fictional English Catholic woman’s monastery, and the nuns who live there. The book opens very simply with Penny Stevens, the juniorest typist in a government office run by a Mrs. Philippa Talbot, who Penny adores. On this particular day Penny can tell that something is going to happen—namely that Mrs. Talbot has been given a promotion. She is called into Mrs. Talbot’s office where, ...more
Jul 09, 2008 Maryellen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone,
Recommended to Maryellen by: a friend who reads constanatly
I love this book and it is not a subject I was drawn to. It is about a Benedictine Abbey for women and they are contemplative, only see visitors through a grille once they have taken their vows. It is peaceful but the group of nuns create their own enviroment. The main character does not enter the order until she is in her early forties and her adjustment is somewhat difficult. The author is English but lived in India until she was a teenager. She describes the individual sisters and their ...more
Dec 27, 2007 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith, fiction, bas-bleu
I just loved this. It's a fairly complex novel that interweaves three layers of story: There's the personal journey of Philippa Talbot, a career woman in her forties who enters the cloistered world of a Benedictine monastery; the story of this particular monastery as it buries one abbess and elects a new one; and an exploration of the life in general of a cloistered order, devoted to prayer.
Oct 06, 2007 Dottie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably my favorite Godden book though I love them all. She is one of my earliest "adopted" authors whose works I read repeatedly and in as near completion as I can possibly do so -- I will keep searching them out until I've read them all.
Jun 15, 2010 Stephen rated it it was amazing
Wow, about half way through the book became terrific - it just kind of snuck up on me. Wonderful, beautiful and meaningful.
Jun 30, 2007 Linera rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, religion
I re-read this book every few years, when my soul feels dusty.
Nov 14, 2014 Claire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant!!!!!!!
Christian Engler
Religious life, specifically cloistered life, has always intrigued me. My first experience of monastic life first came to me when I was a little boy. I used to travel to my grandparent’s summer home in Oka, Quebec in the area of the Lower Laurentians on the Lake of Two Mountains. In that area was a well known Trappist Monastery in which we would frequently visit to buy their homemade honey, cheese and chocolate. I remember my curiosity at seeing the Trappists clad in their long robes with their ...more
Jun 08, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
So close to five stars. Maybe five. Very much a "people" book, about the interrelation of those in community with one another. It could be family, it could be a workplace (a law firm!), though it actually is a Benedictine convent in England. There are nuns at all stages - postulants (in the initial trial period, determining whether there is truly a vocation), novitiate sisters (having taken temporary vows), dames (solemn vows), and those in leadership - prioress, mother abbess. Think summer ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I first read this book back in the late 60s or early 70s, certainly before I was in highschool. I had read Godden's doll-related children's books (The Fairy Doll, Little Plum etc); when I was allowed access to the adult stacks at the library, this was one of the first I borrowed. I have since read it repeatedly over the years, and consider it Godden's masterpiece.

There are no "unimportant" characters in this book, no forgotten details; all is woven into a harmonious, if not always pleasant, whol
Joseph R.
Jan 14, 2015 Joseph R. rated it it was amazing
Phillipa Talbot is a successful British woman who is a mid-level bureaucrat in the government, a high position for a woman in the 1950s. Her staff adores her and she has a small set of close friends. But she has a secret--she's been exploring a vocation as a nun at a Benedictine abbey. As the book begins, she tells everyone of her plans, gives away her things, and heads off to Brede Abbey for a completely differently life.

Life at the abbey is difficult for Phillipa. She's much older than the ave
Jun 28, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it
I read this back in 2006 or soon after it was published.

When I was a girl I read several biographies of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (took her name for my Confirmation name) and also much about the Carmelite cloisters of France- and how she had lived her life. It is not that dissimilar (different era, different context of knowledge maybe)than this woman's experience. And I also went to Catholic All GIRLS High School at the same location as the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate near Chicago and so ha
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2015 Reading Chal...: In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden 1 11 Sep 17, 2015 02:41PM  
  • The Nun's Story
  • The Song At The Scaffold
  • Island of the World
  • The Dean's Watch
  • An Infinity of Little Hours: Five Young Men and Their Trial of Faith in the Western World's Most Austere Monastic Order
  • Mr. Blue
  • The Sign of Jonas
  • The Diary of a Country Priest
  • The Reed of God
  • Two Under the Indian Sun
  • The Woman of the Pharisees
  • Catherine of Siena
  • Lord of the World
  • The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest
  • Catholics
  • The Spear: A Novel of the Crucifixion
  • The Ascent of Mount Carmel
  • The Song of Bernadette
Margaret Rumer Godden was born in Sussex, but grew up in India, in Narayanganj. Many of her 60 books are set in India. Black Narcissus was made into a famous movie with Deborah Kerr in 1947.

Godden wrote novels, poetry, plays, biographies, and books for children.

For more information, see the official website: Rumer Godden
More about Rumer Godden...

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“One of the good things about a Catholic church is that it isn't respectable," she had told Richard. "You can find anyone in it, from duchesses to whores, from tramps to kings.” 13 likes
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