The two saints whose lives Vita Sackville-West contrasts in this double biography were recorded by very different epithets: 'the great' and 'the little'. Both women were Carmelites, both canonised and both shared the same name. But whilst Teresa of Avila was aristocratic, intellectual, vigorous and humorous, a Spanish woman of the sixteenth century, Thérèse of Lisieux was a guileless and sentimental figure of the French bourgeoisie. Teresa, the great mystic, is the patron saint of Spain; Thérèse, the humble nun, is probably the most beloved saint in the entire Calendar. The extraordinary rise of the cult of both women is scrutinised.
Glamorous aristocrat, complete with ancient name, Spanish Gypsy blood, lost inheritance and family scandals; reckless, romantic lesbian and cross-dresser; devoted wife to a noted diplomat and diarist; mother of two talented sons; bestselling writer, gardener of genius - what could be more enthralling?