My Years as a Nun


'A profoundly moving memoir which gripped me' Mark Haddon

Discover Catherine Coldstream’s evocative account of life as a nun in the 1990s, and the dramatic events which led to her flight from the monastery.


After the shock of her father’s death, twenty-four-year-old Catherine was left grieving and alone. A search for meaning led her to Roman Catholicism and the nuns of Akenside Priory.

Here she found a tight-knit community of dedicated women and peace in an ancient way of life. But as she surrenders to her final vows, all is not as it seems behind the Priory’s closed doors. Power struggles erupt – with far-reaching consequences for those within.

Catherine comes to realise that divine authority is mediated through flawed and all-too-human channels. She is faced with a dilemma: should she protect the serenity she has found, or speak out?

A love song to a lost community and an honest account of her twelve years in the Order, Cloistered is also a cautionary tale about what can happen when good people cut themselves off from the wider world.

‘Immersive, beautifully observed’ Katherine May

'I admired [Cloistered] enormously' Sarah Perry

An intense and often theatrical read’ Financial Times


  • ‘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

About the author

Catherine Coldstream

Catherine Coldstream was born in London, and grew up loving music, words, and books. After converting to Roman Catholicism in her twenties, she spent twelve years in a Carmelite monastery where she lived the life of a silent contemplative nun. Since leaving her community she has studied at the Universities of Oxford, East Anglia, and London, and taught theology, philosophy, and ethics in schools. The effects of her years as a nun have never left her and continue to inspire and inform her writing.
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