Philippa Talbot is a successful London career woman turned forty when she feels the call of the religious life. “I thought I was very well as I was was,” she told the Brede Sacristan later, “a human, balanced person with a reasonable record; with the luckof having money, friends, love. Only suddenly it wasn’t enough.” She is one of the most attractive and sympathetic characters in Rumer Godden’s long and well-loved fictional roster. This, then, is a story of the life in an enclosed house of nuns and of the relevance of this contemplative existence to our changing world-a challenging theme. The novel unfolds chiefly through Philippa, from the day of her entrance, through one crisis of mind and heart to another, until she faces an ultimate and almost unbearable sacrifice. Woven with with her personal story is a much larger one-the story of the House, its history, and the present inmates who have voewed to live and die within its walls. The nuns are English Benedictiones whose House is centuries old in tradition, a stronghold of faith and prayer, yet they are up-to-date, alive, aware of the world-and matter of fact. In Rumer Godden’s hands, they are fully realized individuals whom we come to know and care about, adding rich dimensions to the novel as they live out their vocations. Through them, the book gives us on the outside a picture of how everyday religious life is lived, day in, day out “without sloth or haste” as St. Benedict’s Rule lays down. Part of the novel’s attraction is its clear and abundant showing of the meaning of that life those who live it, of its rules and ritual, and this makes the most uncommon and fascinating “shop”. It is the mark of Rumer Godden’s unique magic that she immerses the reader wholly and unforgettably in the cloistered yet universal existence of her House of Brede.
With a copyright of 1969, this book is in pretty decent condition, with only a minor tear on the bottom right hand corner and some minor wear on the top and bottom of the dust covers spine.