(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Rumer Godden, already a widely published novelist, wrote In This House of Brede while on her own spiritual journey to the Roman Catholic Church. She worked on the novel while living for three years in the gate (guesthouse) of an English Benedictine abbey. Several of her novels had been made into films, and so her conversion was newsworthy. Godden converted to Roman Catholicism in 1968. “I like the way everything is clear and concise,” she remarked apropos her turn to Catholicism. “You”ll always be forgiven but you must know the rules.” Rumer Godden was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1993.

In This House of Brede traces the journey of Philippa Talbot, an influential London businesswoman, who astonishes her friends and colleagues when she resigns her job and enters a Benedictine women’s monastery. Philippa is not only a recent convert to Catholicism but also a widow and the mother of a deceased child, for which she carries a great burden of emotional loss. Although she is in line in her secular professional life for further promotion, she has come to realize that her success and influence are not bringing her happiness. “I thought I was very well as I was,” she tells one of the nuns. “Only suddenly it wasn’t enough—not nearly enough.”

Her conversion story, beginning with entering into a church by an almost blind accident, leads her to risk everything she has—wealth, power, a devoted lover—for the more dangerous business of giving her life to God. For Philippa, who entered the order at age forty-two, learning to accept...

(The entire section is 654 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Chisholm, Anne. Rumer Godden: A Storyteller’s Life. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1998. Authorized biography of Rumer Godden, who was born in the United Kingdom in 1907, was reared in India, twice married, and published twenty-four novels and several works of nonfiction and poetry.

Godden, Rumer. A House with Four Rooms. New York: Morrow, 1989. Godden’s autobiography from the late 1940’s through the 1970’s, including her work with filmmaker Jean Renoir, her return to England, the flowering of her career, and her move to Scotland in the 1970’s. Covers the period when she wrote In This House of Brede.

Rosenthal, Lynne M. Rumer Godden Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1996. Part of Twayne author series, this is a good introduction to Godden that addresses her Catholicism and individual works.

Tickle, Phyllis. Introduction to In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden. Chicago: Loyola, 2005. An astute and helpful introduction to the work.