Synopses & Reviews
In 1960, five young men arrived at the imposing gates of Parkminster, the largest center of the most rigorous and ascetic monastic order in the Western world: the Carthusians. This is the story of their five-year journey into a society virtually unchanged in its behavior and lifestyle since its foundation in 1084. An Infinity of Little Hours is a uniquely intimate portrait of the customs and practices of a monastic order almost entirely unknown until now. It is also a drama of the men's struggle as they avoid the 1960sthe decade of hedonism, music, fashion, and amoralityand enter an entirely different era and a spiritual world of their own making. After five years each must face a choice: to make "solemn profession" and never leave Parkminster; or to turn his back on his life's ambition to find God in solitude. A remarkable investigative work, the book combines first-hand testimony with unique source material to describe the Carthusian life. And in the final chapter, which recounts a reunion forty years after the events described elsewhere in the book, Nancy Klein Maguire reveals which of the five succeeded in their quest, and which did not.
"An Infinity of Little Hours does what the best books do: it probes, it teaches, it unsettles, it amazes." The American Scholar
"The level of detail is astonishing, and the book does what all great nonfiction does, paints a picture of a world with strokes so well-defined one feels as if he or she has visited it." MSNBC
What Ms. Maguire has set herself to do -- and she does it brilliantly -- is to make real to us what one might call the Carthusian experience, but the experience of an order that, in 1960, was still almost exactly as it had been in the 11th century, when St. Bruno built his hermitages on the mountain of the Grande Chartreuse. She describes it as a slice of history frozen in time for nearly 1,000 years that was, as the church enforced modernization, about to drop into oblivion....Ms. Maguire takes us through every element of this strange and wonderful life, where the sole aim is to live for God alone. She makes no judgment on whether the means used are the wisest, though there is perhaps an implicit judgment in the actual life stories of her five novices as they struggle to meet the challenge. Wendy Beckett, National Catholic Reporter
This riveting chronicle of an unimaginably difficult spiritual journey offers an unprecedented look inside a secretive world unchanged since medieval times
About the Author
Nancy Klein Maguire is the author of numerous publications on the relationship of theatre and politics in the seventeenth century. She frequently reviews books, most recently for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. She has been a Scholar-in- Residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, since 1983.