This book is certainly no pious stereotype of perfect contemplative nuns, but instead a book that reads more like an autobiography than a novel. The characters in the story are so real that you forget you are reading a novel. From the abbess down to the novices each person described could easily find their counterpart in real life.Read the whole review. Y'all know that I am a fan and it is nice to see that Jeff enjoyed the book also.
Something I rarely see mentioned about Godden's books but that one commenter pointed out is that Godden's books often have unsettling elements which can often be painful to think about. I think about the way that the youngest child is ignored practically to the point of abuse in Thursday's Children, the way that Lovejoy's mother has abandoned her in An Episode of Sparrows, Philipa's secret in In This House of Brede. I haven't read all of Godden's books but I think that the only one that I have read where I can't remember something of the sort included is The Kitchen Madonna.
I think it is because Godden doesn't sugar-coat life. She shows the worst side of human behavior and we find it painful because we know just how it would feel to be treated like that. However, she also shows the best side and it is a redemptive side that I find extremely rewarding. For me, this mirrors life and I think that Godden does it with a subtle yet sure touch. Perhaps most amazing thing is that Godden manages to show those bad qualities in extremely good, non-offensive prose. That is an art that is lost on many modern writers.