That Thread

Re-reading In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden. (The Loyola Classics edition that was at the library is a very nice edition. I may look for one of these to buy.) As I started to say something about it to my husband this morning, it suddenly clanged into my head ... hey! I have several favorite books that have as a central theme a woman ready to reinvent herself. I've never noticed the thread before.

In this book, the main character has decided to enter a convent rather than continue in her successful career in public service. In Elizabeth Goudge's The Scent of Water, the woman leaves a public service career to move out into the country when she inherits a house from a distant cousin (and the house turns out to have been part of the old monastery destroyed by the infamous Henry VIII). In Madeleine L'Engle's book, A Severed Wasp, the main character has retired from her career as a concert pianist, and intends to weave the threads of her life together into something she can know and love. She thinks she will have a quiet retirement in which to do this, but finds herself deeply involved in the ongoing lives of others in and around the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.

For awhile now, I've been actively seeking books that will talk to me about this phase of my life. What am I supposed to do with it? I have a reasonable expectation of a second career, decades stretching before me, a wider life possible because of a life so far ... what am I supposed to do? This is very much like the teen years in some ways. It's obvious that some new part of life is on the horizon. I want to get ready. I want to know. Where are the books? Who are the authors?

Well, it turns out that there are many such books and authors. Tonight I'll go to Marylhurst to listen to Mary Catherine Bateson - one of the experts answering this question. But ... this morning, I see now that I have been reading and getting ready for a long time. I just didn't know it. Godden, Goudge and L'Engle brought me Phillipa, Mary and Katherine, and they've been my friends and teachers all along.


Genuine Lustre said...

Could it be argued that most novels are about a character who makes a change?
Enjoy your evening! I know you've been looking forward to it.

Stephanie said...

Well, yes, that's the classic novel form, for sure. But changes come in childhood, in adolescence, in young adulthood, in parenthood ... and in midlife and at old age.

And now I realize that perhaps the only novel I've read where there is a character who will do her old age changing just might be Kirsten Lavransdatter. No, wait. The Grandmother in Pilgrim's In. That's another one.

Stephanie said...

INN. Pilgrim's INN. (sheesh!)