Cloistered: My Years as a Nun (Hardcover)

Cloistered: My Years as a Nun By Catherine Coldstream Cover Image

Cloistered: My Years as a Nun (Hardcover)

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"A profoundly moving memoir which gripped me . . . It’s about spirituality and asceticism and silence and sisterhood, but also about how flawed human beings can abuse power and how hermetically sealed communities, which should care for and protect their members, can be dangerously vulnerable to threats from inside their walls.” - Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Porpoise and others

An astonishing memoir of twelve years as a contemplative nun in a silent monastery.


Cloistered
takes the reader deep into the hidden world of a traditional Carmelite monastery as it approaches the third Millennium and tells the story of an intense personal journey into and out of an enclosed life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Finding an apparently perfect world at Akenside Priory, in Northumberland, Catherine trusts herself to a group of twenty silent women, believing she is trusting herself to God. As the beauty and mystery of an ancient way of life enfold her, she surrenders herself wholly to its power, quite unaware of the complexity and dangers that lie ahead.

Cut off from the wider world for decades, the community has managed to evade accountability to any authority beyond itself. When Sister Catherine realises that a mesmerising cult of the personality, with the distortions it entails, has replaced the ancient ideal of religious obedience, she is faced with a dilemma. Will she submit to this, or will she be forced to speak out?

An exploration of the limits of trust, Cloistered shows us how far youthful idealism can take us along the road of self-surrender, and of how much harm is done when institutional flaws go unacknowledged. Catherine’s honest account of her time in the monastery – and her dramatic flight from it – is both a love song to a lost community and an exploration of what is most compelling, yet most potentially destructive when closed human groups become laws unto themselves.

CATHERINE COLDSTREAM converted to Catholicism after her father's death and was a Carmelite nun for twelve years. Aged 39, she left for good, and has since studied at the Universities of Oxford, East Anglia, and London, and taught theology, philosophy and ethics in schools. She never stopped thinking about her life as a nun and has written on many aspects of contemplative spirituality and the arts. She is a viola player and choral singer and lives in Oxford.

Product Details ISBN: 9781250323514
ISBN-10: 1250323517
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English

"An immersive, beautifully observed study of the monastic mind, and the forces that can disrupt and unsettle it. Reading it, I felt the gravitational pull of silence and ecstatic connection." - Katherine May, author of Wintering

“A profoundly moving memoir which gripped me . . . It’s about spirituality and asceticism and silence and sisterhood, but also about how flawed human beings can abuse power and how hermetically sealed communities, which should care for and protect their members, can be dangerously vulnerable to threats from inside their walls.” - Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Porpoise and others

“I admired Cloistered enormously for its lucid evocative prose, but most of all for the sincerity and candour with which Coldstream writes about her faith, as a transformative and intimate relation with God.” - Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent, Melmoth and others

"When she was twenty-four years old, Catherine Coldstream lost her father, who had been everything to her. From the depths of her grief, she set out on a journey of poverty, chastity, and obedience in a Carmelite monastery in an area of outstanding natural beauty. During the following twelve years, Sister Catherine plowed, planted, and harvested vast fields of solitude and faith. There she experienced the power of prayer, the sometimes damaging politics and surveillance of monastic life, the numinous heights of music, and her own sharp intelligence. This incredibly beautiful and moving book is for all of us." - Dr. Carmen Bugan, George Orwell Prize Fellow, author of Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police, Time Being and Poetry and the Language of Oppression.

"This is is a memoir of emotions felt viscerally. But there are also remarkable spiritual insights, intellectual reflections on life and death and, of course, plenty about the intense relationships that developed between Catherine, and the other sisters. Engrossing and moving.” - Belinda Jack, Author of George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large and The Woman Reader

"In an era of relentless superficiality, Catherine Coldstream's memoir of her years living as a nun draws us back into the cloistered world of the inner life. It shows us what it is we may have abandoned in our lives of emotional and material dependency: a commitment to hope and faith; the transforming structures of a spiritual imagination. Here are beautifully crafted lessons in spiritual survival; the meditative practice of deep loneliness; of days wrapped in prayer and contemplation." - Sally Bayley, Author of The Green Lady, Girl with Dove, No Boys Play Here and The Private Life of the Diary"

“A mesmerizing memoir of great clarity and nuance, Cloistered is an account of religious life that is as authentically vulnerable as it is poignantly honest. It will transform the perceptions of its readers regarding the unique traditions of convent life, including its struggle and pain as well as its beauty and glory.” - Revd Dr. Ayla Lepine, Associate Rector, St James’s Church Piccadilly, London

“This fascinating, disturbing memoir takes its place in a rich tradition of writing about convent life by ex-nuns, and is distinguished by its passionate, lyrical writing, which perfectly expresses the author's ardent search for meaning, freedom and love.” - Michèle Roberts, author of Cut Out, Paper Houses, Negative Capability and others