Frances Wilson

Sister Act

Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art & Arson in the Convents of Italy


University of Chicago Press 241pp £22.50 order from our bookshop

How do you solve a problem like Maria? The naughty nuns in this book are not simply flibbertigibbets, will-o’-the-wisps and clowns, they are unsung – and often loudly singing – heroines, protesting against their incarceration. Today when women behave badly in the Catholic Church it is because they get themselves ordained as priests; in the seventeenth century, their bad behaviour ranged from rebellious embroidery to harmonising their voices, dabbling with the devil, and burning down the convent. Disappointing perhaps for those looking for a little nun-on-nun body-surfing but enough to make the rest of us feel that we have, in this gem of a book, entered an otherwise unknown and thoroughly weird world.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,