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In This House of Brede

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  4,186 ratings  ·  617 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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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  4,186 ratings  ·  617 reviews

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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
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
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.
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
Julie Davis
It's been too long since I've reread this. It was just what I needed.


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. Su
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
Rick Slane
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  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 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, leaving her friends astounded.
The life that she had led, so far, was simply not enough. Yes, she chooses to leave all her worldly possessions in pursuit of a life as a Cloi
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
I remember watching the movie first as a girl. A very youthful Diana Rigg plays Philippa who gives up everything to enter Brede. Later when I was older, I read the book, but I don't remember when and unfortunately I didn't write it down. It's an excellent study of women's spirituality, women living in community, one particular woman's journey, friendship and the essential nature of human relationships to our Divine Creator. It's a beautiful and haunting book. I've returned to it at various times ...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.
Jamie Collins
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ann-Marie by: Cassie Conger
Wow. My reading challenge included reading a book over 500 pages. I never expected that a book about a woman who enters the cloister could possibly be so riveting. I stayed up late to read this, several nights in a row. Phillipa is so approachable and relatable. This successful woman leaves her comfortable job and apartment to enter the cloister - and many of the Dames think that she won't be successful because she's lived too long in the world.

What I so enjoyed about the book is that the Dames
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wonder if my life would be drastically different if I had read this book as a single woman. This simple and heart warming story brings to life what it means to be a cloistered nun. Our modern utilitarian culture invaded my thinking more than I thought and I've realized I've always been puzzled over the value of the cloistered life. Philippa's story, as well as the story of other characters, demonstrates the struggles, sacrifices and triumphs of daily life behind the grills. I loved this book a ...more
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
Julie  Durnell
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful story of life in a Benedictine abbey. The hierarchy of the nuns/sisters/dames was very interesting and how each woman brought something of themselves into this religious order and learned to surrender and serve made this enjoyable to read. Phillipa was somewhat of an enigma but she carries this story wonderfully.
Bill Kupersmith
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the perfect read for self-isolating, a story of women monastics. I felt so deeply immersed in Benedictine spirituality that when I looked out my front window I almost expected to see a cloister. If prayer were an Olympic event, the nuns at Brede would be gold medalists. Seven times a day, from Vigils at 4 am to Compline at 8.30 pm they chant the daily office in Latin, praying for their community, for the world, and for people outside who have asked their intercessions. Though they would ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book, not it the sense that it is lyrical long sentences and you can only read small dose at the time , but beautifully written in the sense of the depiction on human nature. This book showed the flaws and the strength in all of us. How vocation isn't sainthood but a journey of transformation. And there was lots of comical anecdote that made it an captivating read. Highly recommend
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.
Life choices. . .

This book, topic and author have come to me by way of a question in Facebook about a book I read as a very small child that had no cover and was missing anything that had a name on it. A suggestion from a stranger lead next to goodreads reviews and replies and off to the library app that sent a book to kindle. . .the journey has been a happy surprise. I will read more of this author.

This is a book about a professional woman who comes to a crossroads and chooses a monastic life
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
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
Jun 28, 2013 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
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
Josephine (Jo)
I read this book for the first time in 1972 and reading it again has given me just as much pleasure as it did then.
Philippa Talbot at the age of 42 is a successful business woman and seems the most unlikely of people to give up her high flying career and become a Benedictine nun, living a life off quiet contemplation in an enclosed convent. It is hard for anyone giving up their life in the world for the austere conventual existence, but for a woman who is older and more accustomed to being in c
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
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.
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2015 Reading Chal...: In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden 1 22 Sep 17, 2015 02:41PM  

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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

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