Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Few More Bits on Brede

Well, I think I was the last to finish Brede. Took my time with it, and loved it. I thought it was interesting to think about the foundation of a Japanese monastery after having read Silence. I kept thinking about that question of whether or not an Eastern culture can ever be decidedly at home in a Religion with mostly Western traditions. It was easier to see how a few Japanese nuns could acclimate to a monastery in England, but I wanted to see what would happen when the monastery is transplanted to Japan. Probably too difficult a sequel for Godden to write. But that's not really the point of the book, I know, just an aside I kept thinking about.

We haven't talked much about Dame Veronica, who was interesting to me. I was sort of surprised that Godden would create a character who is so universally unlikeable. I was also surprised that she would allow her nuns to speak so openly and with such disdain towards her. I couldn't decide how much of their talk was necessary for the good of the order. Finding the right position in the house for her required honesty about her shortcomings, but they crossed the line rather often.

Was reading something recently, can't remember the exact quote, but to the effect of being able to overcome almost any sin except being a dreamer. Dame Veronica might be the poster child for this sort of soul. She does seem quite hopeless.

I agree with MRs. Darwin on the emotion issue. I'm not even preggers, and was crying almost every other page. Sometimes I think Godden did go for the easy emotional tug: the two birds flying in the Sanctuary before the deaths of Dame Emily and Dame Colette, the shaft of light through the window singling Philippa out, for example--and yet, everyone does probably have an experience of Supernatural coincidence. I just happened to wake up in the night at the exact time that I later discovered my Grandfather had died. In any case, I'm ok with easy emotionalism.

I have to say that if there was a character I liked the least, it was Philippa, and I did not dislike her, so much as I found her sort of a fifties Hollywood characature. I pictured her as the icy blonde from a Hitchcock movie--chiseled to perfection in every way. I wanted her to behave badly, just once.

I thought the relationship between Dame Maura and Cecily was interesting. And I couldn't tell if Godden was being discrete and that there was something more erotic in Dame Maura's feelings, or if it was just a preferential frienship.

Overall, the great joy of this book for me was all the one-liners I got to write down in my journal.

"the goal of the discipline is not victory but submission" for example and so many more (But my journal is in the other room and I want to wrap this up).

It really was a sort of spiritual reading, a little homily on almost every page--but I never felt like I was receiving a homily, if that makes sense.

For our next read, I think we will go ahead with the RUle of Saint Benedict. If I can find another short story online, I might slap it up here, but no promises.

I think this link to the RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT broken into daily readings might be the way to go, if you want to read it online. If someone knows of a good translation worth buying, feel free to offer that information.


Emily J. said...

I felt the same way about Dame Veronica also - the others seemed almost catty toward her, but I kind of enjoyed her comic relief. She was likable, if blind to her lack of talent, in her sincerity.

Still thinking of Cecily and why she needed to be bereft of something she loved in order to enter fully into her vows. More than the loss of Larry or Maura's affection, does she feel her loss of innocence? Maybe I keep coming back to this idea because my own children are beginning to feel that world is a painful place, and I'm struggling with giving them the freedom to suffer their own mistakes after sheltering them this far. Cecily was so pious and remote before her bereavement - she seemed more unlikable than Veronica. Sister Hillary on the other hand, what was her sacrifice - what was she giving up? Her riches? Some secret?

BettyDuffy said...

Hilary had the ability to be flippant? The Abbess told Cecily to be flippant about Dame Maura, like Hilary. I think in a way it's Cecily's innocence, but also her need to take everything so seriously. We see Cecily running off to the convent, considering everyone in her life a threat. She's got drama in almost equal proportion to Dame Veronica, but with an added touch of scrupulosity. I think Cecily had to become befeft of her idea of herself, in a way, losing innocence.

Julie D. said...

I think the point of the others talking about Dame Veronica was to illustrate that they were fully human ... good of the order often had nothing to do with it, often it was simply because they were human beings having to deal with a person who was so unlikable.