Karen Armstrong gives an account of her experiences as a Roman Catholic nun. She describes her childhood, her progress at school and her admission into the order of St Ignatius in 1962 and - via Oxford University and an English literature degree - out of it again seven years later. She depicts a brutal and medieval convent system prior to reform by the Second Vatican Council, where postulates had to erase their sense of self in order to be worthy as a bride of Christ. To achieve this, the sisters were forbidden to have friendships, were prohibited from speaking for 22 hours a day, had to undergo self-denunciation sessions in front of the other members of the convent, use scourges to dampen sexual desires and endure clothing, food and accommodation virtually unchanged since the dark ages. What began as Armstrong's desire for discipline and self-mastery rapidly became an assault on every aspect of her individuality. Exhausted by guilt, frustrations and loneliness, she slid first into anorexia and then into complete mental and physical collapse. Finally she obtained a place at Oxford University, and her reintegration into the world began.
Karen Armstrong was born in Worcestershire. After becoming a nun in the 1960s, she left her order and lectured in literature at London University before becoming a full time writer, broadcaster and international adviser on religious and political affairs. She has addressed US Congress, the UN and Canadian parliament on Islam and fundamentalism. Among her other books is the bestselling 'History of God'.