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In This House of Brede
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In This House of Brede

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  3,205 Ratings  ·  480 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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Jun 20, 2008 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 mat ...more
Cindy Rollins
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
This is an astonishingly good book. I did not love the theme at all at first. I wanted to scream at Philippa not to join a monastery. It felt like the rest of the book could not possibly be interesting and yet, it was often quite exciting. By page 200 I would call this a page-turner, and yet why? Only surprisingly wonderful writing.

My favorite part of this book was the grace shown to the failures of many of the women and how God worked all things together for good in realistic ways in each of t
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
Aug 10, 2007 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
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge
I read this book following a personal recommendation, and I'm very pleased that I did read it. What I do know is that without this recommendation I probably wouldn't have looked at this book.

That is because of the subject matter i.e. life for nuns in a Benedictine monastery. It's to the credit of the author that I found the book interesting, and the characters believable and well rounded. I enjoyed reading about the various rituals, although my favourite parts of the book were actually the aut
Kate Quinn
May 04, 2009 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.
Nov 29, 2008 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
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 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
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sonia Gomes
Mar 09, 2009 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 in my teens, all through the Christmas Vacation of 1972. I neglected my studies, but have never regretted it. I have reread it many times and it never fails to grip me, 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, 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 a Clois
Jamie Collins
May 23, 2012 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
Rick Slane
Dec 03, 2015 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
Jun 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, religion
I re-read this book every few years, when my soul feels dusty.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am going to be thinking about all of the pearls of beauty and wisdom this book contained for days. Maybe I can write a more thoughtful review later, but wow, this was so well done, poignant and just beautiful.
Jan W. Mc
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rumer Godden is an author who should definitely be remembered!

In This House of Brede tells the story of Philippa, a successful businesswoman with a past, who follows God's leading to enter a monastery in Brede England in the 1950s. Because of her success, connections, and worldliness, her sincerity and willingness to humble herself are doubted at first, but the Abbess Hester agrees that Philippa will be accepted as a novice. Once cloistered, she shows her devotion to her calling through interact
May 21, 2007 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 exac ...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 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.
Cindy Marsch
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-reviews
It was particularly moving reading this book in a group of friends who, like me, were homeschooling multiple children and overwhelmed by the lack of solitude, etc. A nun's life seemed quite intriguing to us! Godden reminds us that wherever we go, we carry ourselves with us, and that beauty and fullness can be found in wildly disparate kinds of lives.
I'm pretty sure I can't write a review worthy of this book yet. But it was very good.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This book had been on my list for several years, and when I finally found a copy of it, I took the plunge. As a Protestant, I had several misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding monasteries, and I knew virtually nothing of life in one. This book helped enlighten me.

I cannot say I enjoyed the book though, because I found it somewhat slow and tedious. Maybe the author was intentional with that, or maybe it was just me bringing my tiredness to my reading time. Either way, I was glad when I
Philippa Talbot was a director at her London office when she announced she was giving up her career. She felt a vocation to religious life and joined the Benedictines at Brede, a ficticious Abbey. The story tracks her life with the Benedictines as well as the other nuns' experiences. We learn about Philippa's secrets and how she meets the challenges that await her. There is a rhythm of life at the Abbey with prayers and chanting at certain times of day, reading, and work. The book follows the nu ...more
Ashley FL
Feb 11, 2008 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 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!!!
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
Killian Mancera
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such a beautiful book. A perfect lenten read. The narrative style was very interesting. I have read it aptly described as a stream of conscience from the narrator. Although this threw me off in the first chapter, I found it to be very readable and quickly became engrossed in the various story lines and characters. There is a main character, however, the focus isn't always on her experience and I came to love many of the other nuns especially Abbess Catherine.
Sep 12, 2012 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
Apr 07, 2008 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
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was attracted to this book by two things - the author is the writer of one of my cherished children's Christmas books, "The Holly and the Ivy", and the subject, Benedictine cloistered nuns. Cloistered meaning the nuns, called Dame, not Sister live inside the walls of their "house", not convent, spending their days and nights in silent contemplation and prayer. They are not completely silent, nor close off the world completely but their calling requires intense concentration.
The narrative styl
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Afternoon Tea and...: Rumer Godden 1 7 Nov 24, 2017 12:48AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden 1 17 Sep 17, 2015 02:41PM  
  • The Nun's Story
  • The Song At The Scaffold
  • The 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.” 15 likes
“I wish I knew when I was going to die,' ninety-six-year-old Dame Frances Anne often said, 'I wish I knew.'
'Why, Dame?'
'Then I should know what to read next.”
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