Books: How Do You Solve a Problem like a Calling?
McDowell, Lesley, The Independent (London, England)
New Habits: Today's Women who Choose to Become Nuns
by Isabel Losada
Hodder pounds 7.99 THE cover of Isabel Losada's collection of interviews with novice nuns insinuates an ambiguity that the author is at pains throughout to refute. The cover is entirely black except for a small photograph at the centre, depicting a smiling young woman dressed in a formal nun's habit, with one hand resting on what appear to be the bars of a gate which are raised in front of her face. A nun's experience is either a happy one in spite of imprisonment, or because of it, it would seem to say. Losada has gathered 10 interviews with women from the ages of 23 to 54, inviting them to give their reasons for abandoning career, home and personal relationships in favour of the cloistered life of the convent. Each interview is preceeded with some personal information about the nun herself and the order she has chosen to join - the degrees of strictness and authority are surprisingly varied - together with the author's own evaluation of the woman she has spoken with. This is always positive. Losada stresses the "almost raunchy sense of humour" of the youngest novice, Sister Teresa, the "wonderfully, joyfully down-to-earth" Sister Helen, the "vulnerability and sensitivity" of Sister Esther. These qualities do come through in the interviews, which Losada has left as loose as possible to give the women room to open up. As a result they come across as highly individual women with their own voices, emphasising the personal nature of their decision rather than accepted views of the Church they have chosen to join. …