Friday, February 5, 2010

Off to a good start...

The motto was 'Pax,' but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Pax: peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort, seldom with a seen result; subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at night, little comfort, sometimes scant food; beset with disappointments and usually misunderstood; yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love. "It is my own peace I give unto you." Not, notice, the world's peace.

7 comments:

BettyDuffy said...

I love the description in the prologue of how Philippa discovers her vocation, in the Church and the tramp who has her take his place in line in the Confessional--the seemingly random ways that God works--somehow it wasn't as cheesy in the book as I'm describing it here.

ALso, the image of her at the bar drinking whisky and smoking, her fear as she leaves the world, and the new love she has for all of humanity at the thought of emptying herself of all her worldly concerns.

Melanie B said...

Constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep, little comfort, unremitting toil and effort, seldom seen results.... Sounds like my life. Except that I'm still working on finding peace.

I love that moment of the tramp in line too. You're right, it escapes being cheesy perhaps in part because of how matter-of-fact Godden is about it. It doesn't have a romantic glow but just happens: "Surely if there is a miracle, that is the miracle? That someone quite ordinary, by some extraordinary action, can work providence?" I think most of us have had a tramp moment of some sort or another.

mrsdarwin said...

Melanie beat me to the punch, except that food isn't necessarily scant here, unless I'm trying to sneak a snack in peace and everyone finds out about it and comes clamoring for a bite and I end up getting almost none of my treat...

What I enjoy about Phillipa's progress is that she really remains herself throughout her progress through religious life. I was very moved by her agonies over not being able to smoke -- that small worldly and physical attachment that was so hard to let go of. There's no draining of personality in the convent. Everyone becomes more themselves, for better or worse.

Melanie B said...

I was thinking scant food sort of applies if I consider the small amounts I am sometimes able to eat before being called away from the table to nurse the baby or change a diaper. Not to mention the small girl (we won't mention any names) who absolutely must eat while sitting in my lap. Of course I am able to go back and eat later. But it's not often I get to sit down and enjoy an entire meal uninterrupted. And then there's the huge list of foods I can't eat during that first trimester when I'm so sick it's hard to keep anything down. And the list of foods Ben currently can't tolerate my eating.... Doesn't compare to the nuns' diet at Brede but there is a sort of parallel.

Emily J. said...

Just into the second chapter, so I'm a little behind. Like Mr. Darwin, I've been reading library books, instead of ones I own, but I jumped in last night. I don't have anything profound to share, just wanted to add my "I love the part when" the abbess dies after Dame Catherine says "We have all heard" her apology and the priest leads the ritual prayers for the dead. While sometimes Godden's writing does seem a little sentimental in other books, I agree with Melanie that her restraint here in reporting the tolling of the bell, the black cloth draped on the empty chair,the crook laid down across it, so moving.

BettyDuffy said...

I've been reading with a pen, which is a good sign. So much I want to remember. But the biggest theme for me is just how many characters there are to love in this book, each so different and so well articulated in just a few brush strokes here and there. I'm so glad you chose this, Melanie--it's been so long since I read a book I couldn't wait to get back to.

Melanie B said...

Betty, I'm glad you're enjoying it so much. It's always gratifying when others like your favorite books. I think you are right one of the geniuses of the novel is all the various characters to love.