In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden is not like most of the books I read. It does not follow the "rules of a good story" that I teach to my children as part of their grammar lessons. There is no one plot that drives the story and is marked by rising action, an obvious definable climax, and then a nice happy resolution.
Instead, it is a story of the intricacies of life in Brede Abbey, a monastery of Benedictine sisters. Godden follows the nuns, whose personalities and struggles are varied and authentic, for a span of more than a decade. Throughout that time many challenges are faced and overcome. Many subplots are explored and then settled. And many discoveries and epiphanies take place in the lives of the sisters and the greater community of people who love and support them.
Godden's writing is descriptive, clear, and easy to read. It flows so beautifully that at times I could not help but read aloud just to hear the cadence of the descriptive prose. What I liked best about the book though was the individual temperaments of the nuns. They were not a perfectly saintly, impeccably holy bunch. They were just a community of women trying.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were many parallels to my own life in Godden's tale of consecrated religious life. In This House of Brede shows that cloistered communities do not offer escape. The women living there struggle, like anyone else, with their own insecurities and temptations to sin. They are not sheltered from the problems of the world and are not living lives of constant peace and security. Their relationships with each other are even marked, at times, by such human emotions as jealousy, hurt, and impatience.
Godden's book shines with the truth that even in a monastery, the path to heaven is a narrow, rocky road full of pitfalls and obstacles.
I received a copy of this book for free from- and wrote this review for- the Tiber River website, but I have since learned that Aquinas and More Catholic Goods which is the "parent company" of TiberRiver.com is sadly going out of business. My review has been pending approval for weeks now and I can only assume it is because the review program is no longer needed. However, I wanted to share my review anyway. I also want to encourage you to visit Aquinas and More while you still can, to take advantage of the 20% off sale and to support a great Catholic company for as long as it is around.