This weekend I re-read In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden.
I've read it more times than I can count, even though I'm not in the book's core demographic, to put it mildly. The book is a character study of a group of British Benedictine nuns in the 1950's and 60's. I'm not a Catholic, I've never even for a nanosecond considered becoming a nun, and I write romance novels with explicit sex scenes.
So why do I read about these nuns again and again? Because Godden did such a masterful job bringing her community of characters to life. The plot is very subtle--mostly as readers we simply live with these characters through several years as a new abbess copes with the problems left behind by her predecessor and several women go through the process that takes them from postulant to fully professed nun. But the writing is lovely and measured. The world of Brede Abbey feels three-dimensional, every bit as different and fascinating to me as Regency England or Narnia or Terre d'Ange or Prince Edward Island at the turn of the 20th century, just to name a few other places I like to visit through the medium of a book. But above all I come back to In This House of Brede for the characters. That's one thing my favorite stories have in common, characters who feel almost as real to me as my closest friends, so I can't help revisiting them.