Nancy Klein Maguire

An Infinity of Little Hours Reviews

Chicago TribuneJulia Keller (November 11, 2007)
"Maguire's book is also superbly understated, but clings to the reader's thoughts like the scent of incense. Using letters, journals and interviews, she retraces the steps of five young men in the 1960s who aspired to be Carthusian monks. Her visits to the Parkminster, their ancient home in Britain, provided "a portal to the eleventh century," Maguire writes. The spiritual musings of these young men -- who will stay, who will wash out? -- are intriguing, but Maguire also is a sensitive chronicler of how the place actually feels: "Nothing is quite clean, dust is in the air, and the damp is pervasive and permanent, getting deeper into the walls each decade ... Always there is the smell of damp, sweaty, wool habits."
Washington PostLauren F. Winner (April 16, 2006)
"In An Infinity of Little Hours, a riveting and sympathetic account, Maguire has reconstructed the experience of Henley and four other men who made their way to Parkminster, the center of British Carthusian life, in 1960."
Los Angeles Times(March 5, 2006)
"...to Maguire's credit, she avoids the more competitive, reality-show aspects of the challenge, focusing instead on the spiritual process. Some cannot bear the cold. Others languish from the loneliness and feel acutely that their life is wasting away... Still it is fascinating to enter, if only for a few hours, into this way of life, where extreme devotion forms at least a bit of a bulwark against humanity's digressions."
National Catholic ReporterSr. Wendy Beckett (July 28, 2006)
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"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... Thomas Merton writes of the stress endured by a musician who must cope with the pressures of the plainsong, but Ms. Maguire makes this pressure even more understandable than Merton himself. The three hours of the night chant, from about 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., become very real to the reader."
AmericaKatrina Schuth (April 3, 2006)
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"One might not expect a book about Carthusians, 'the Western world's most austere monastic order' to be a page-turner, but this sensitively written volume is just that."
CRISIS MagazineElizabeth Thecla Mauro (May, 2006)
"The hours and years Maguire spent tracking down, e-mailing, interviewing, and finally meeting these reclusive men have borne a deliciously intimate fruit; the book reads like the very best sort of psychological novel."
The American ScholarCharles Trueheart (Spring, 2006)
"... an outstanding work of cultural anthropology and oral history. An Infinity of Little Hours does what the best books do: it probes, it teaches, it unsettles, it amazes."
Publishers Weekly(December 19, 2005)
"Through painstaking research including countless phone conversations, 5,000 pages of e-mails and a reunion of the five men in France, Maguire creates a personal, sympathetic and amazingly detailed description of an ancient order and its contemporary adherents, traveling 'toward inner space within the confines of their solitary cells.'"
Kirkus(January 1, 2006)
"A moving look at the human search for communication with God at perhaps its most extreme."
Washington Post ExpressChristopher Porter (March 6, 2006)
"The Carthusians practice an ascetic form of spiritualism that goes back, virtually unchanged, to the order's inception in the early 11th century... [Maguire] was able to get access and explore this secretive society in depth partly because her husband is an ex-Carthusian."
The San Diego Union-TribuneSandi Dolbee (March12, 2006)
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"Nancy Klein Maguire immerses us into the mysterious world of this ascetic order with admirable detail and clarity."
The Seattle TimesKimberly Marlowe Harnett (April 7, 2006)
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"Maguire's years' of labor bore fine fruit. She preserves the hermetic, harsh life of the Carthusian monks-fiercely defended by adherents; piercingly difficult for those who stayed and those who ultimately left its confines."
Folger NewsReaders Writing, (Summer, 2006)
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"In the introduction to her book, Nancy Klein Maguire writes about wanting to be a witness to history... So when she discovered the Carthusians-an austere order of monks that has remained virtually unchanged since its founding in 1084-she recognized a unique opportunity... In effect, she had a rare chance to examine 'frozen history.' "
Science and SpiritBill Williams (July-August, 2006)
"Forty years after their final days in the Charterhouse, the four former monks reunite. They confess that their re-entry into the outside world was painful and disorienting. Yet in their old age, they still carry their time in the Charterhouse with them, believing, as one of the ex-monks tells Maguire, that 'the graces received have changed something deeply within."
Deseret Morning NewsSusan Whitney (May 13, 2006)
"The five young men she writes about saw what they wanted in the faces of the oldest Carthusians. They wanted a life that lights a man from the inside."
St. Louis Post-DispatcLarry Cantwell (March 26, 2006)
"Only one of the five men chose to remain behind the cloistered walls, but all were forever changed by the experience."
The Sun Prairie StarAutumn Drussell (April, 20, 2006
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"Those who stayed were the ones who were able to cut themselves some slack... the ones who had an incredible sense of humor... If they learned to live in the present, they could remain. Once they entered the charterhouse, they had no past and no future. Every day was like every other day. They had to take pleasure in the little things, because all they had was time."
MSNBC.comG. F. C. (March 27, 2006)
"The level of detail is astonishing, and the book does what all great non-fiction does, paints a picture of a world with strokes so well-defined one feels as if he or she has visited it. Reading "An Infinity of Little Hours" is almost like praying."
Busted Halo.comRobert Anthony Siegel
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"An Infinity of Little Hours is too nuanced and layered a book, too deeply humane, to be called sad or defeatist: starkly beautiful might be more accurate. Maguire is a wonderfully erudite and sensitive guide to the Carthusian worldview. Through her clear, intelligent prose, we come to understand why her five novices are willing to risk everything in a mad, exhilarating search for the divine."
Catholic News Service.orgElizabeth Rackover (May 27, 2006)
"What becomes of their passion and their faith-not to mention their psyches-is an unpredictably interesting and well-written tale that, like a good novel, plunges you into their world and makes you wonder how you would fare."
The Catholic Book Club(April, 2006)
"An Infinity of Little Hours is a gripping and engaging piece of Catholic history, focusing a clear lens on the lifestyle, practices and customs of a monastic order that has perdured for more than nine centuries. The author spares no details... "
The Catholic Herald UKJack Carrigan (July 14, 2006)
"Carthusians are essentially hermits who live in community. They meet in chapel for Mass and the Office; for (silent) meals in the refectory on Sundays; and for a long walk on Mondays in which they can talk in pairs. Otherwise their lives are lived in the solitude of their cells, which are designed to be self-sufficient-or more accurately, God-sufficient. Maguire's description of these is fascinating."
The WashingtonianMcLean Robbins
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The depth of Maguire's research—including more than 5,000 pages of e-mails, personal interviews, and a reunion with the five in France—lends credibility to a narrative of events that are four decades old. Her interest in history comes as no surprise: She has been a scholar at DC's Folger Shakespeare Library since 1983.
CommonwealthLawrence S. Cunningham (September 22, 2006)
"The greatest penance in the monastic life is, I suspect, its monotonous regularity. Maguire brilliantly conveys this regularity while also describing how each individual responds to the "An Infinity of Little Hours"…Too many lay writers on monastic life invoke romantic visions of silent men in cowls padding about cloisters while Gregorian chant plays in the background. Not Maguire. She is a graceful writer who has the added gift of avoiding clichés…Maguire has written a brilliant book, offering a glimpse of that portion of the church which, by design, is a silent witness to the contemplative mission of Catholic Christianity."
Publishing News UK(May 19, 2006)
"An inside story of five men who lived the Carthusian life for five years during the sixties. . . little is known of how life inside the most ascetic of orders is lived."
Bookseller Magazine UK(May 31, 2006)
"A warm readable account of life in Parkminster Charterhouse during the 1960s, following the progress of five novices to the Carthusian order, which, at that time, had remained largely unchanged since its inception in the 11th century."
Durrants UK(June 23, 2006)
"A compelling portrait of the spiritual journey of five young men who applied to join the Carthusian order in Parkminster, USA, [sic]where, if they make ‘solemn profession’, they will never leave. Maguire charts their progress, providing a wealth of detail on an order that has hardly changed since the 11th century."
The ExaminerJoanne Collins (August 19&20, 2006)
"I definitely didn’t want to write for scholars alone . . . but for people who were looking for something bigger than themselves. I don’t look at this as a religious book; it’s a cultural history."
The RecorderAmanda Isley (September 22, 2006
"She delineates in one precise stroke an extraordinary portrayal of the human experience and a hungry search for the divine."
RelevantJosh Spilker
"The squabble between the monks provide insight into their humanity—the insignificant becomes magnified when there is so little outside influence. The sounds of the choir, the look of a garden, or the “passing of wind” during prayer are causes for argument."
Bas BleuJulie Van Doren (October, 2006)
"In An Infinity of Little Hours, author Nancy Klein Maguire transports us to a different time and dimension as she showcases five young men who, in 1960, left their comfortable, contemporary surroundings to live in the austere and isolated manner of eleventh-century men of prayer. These five men, along with other fellow monks (and ex-monks), told Maguire of their hopes, experiences, and challenges in trying to live the hermetic life of a Carthusian. And none too soon. When the elderly Carthusians (who entered the order before the reforms of the second Vatican Council in the mid-sixties) pass away, their ancient way of life will disappear."
Abbey-Roads.com
"It’s one of the hottest books of the year as regards monasticism."
Hermitary.com
"An Infinity of Little Hours really is a stunner of a book for anyone who is even mildly interested about the monastic lifestyle and the people drawn to its extremes."
Anchoress.com
"An Infinity of Little Hours is a compelling book to read. . . .the story is crafted to keep the reader engaged, intrigued, and wondering, long after the book is finished."
The Wisconsin State JournalChris Martell (December 16, 2006)
"Maguire’s unlikely journey took her into a monastery where life was frozen in the 11th century. . . . Maguire, a historian . . . had the right connections and exceptional perseverance. ‘In this radical religious order, or cult, as some would describe it, we have a living, breathing organism direct from the eleventh century."
The Literary ReviewBrendan Walsh (February 1, 2007)
"I don’t think that anyone has tried to get under the skin of a group of monks in quite this way before. . . . The five central characters are likeable and real and you come to care about them, and wonder who will stay and who will leave. . . . It is touching to read how stubbornly human the monks are, for all the strangeness of their chosen way of life. Even in solitude, they manage to wind each other up. . . . They are only doing the most ordinary and natural thing in the world—seeking and being sought by God—in their own idiosyncratic and uncluttered way."
The Christian CenturyW. Paul Jones (April 3, 2007)
"Maguire’s accomplishment in description is all the more impressive because she is a woman plumbing a severely masculine domain.. . . Maguire is at her best when describing the ascetic tedium and the privations of daily isolation in a grueling environment with little heat, no electricity and primitive plumbing. She captures well the ambiguity of purpose, the bewilderment over goals, and the deep personal insecurities made particularly painful by the interruption of sleep for the long midnight office and by the Friday fasts extending beyond Lent. Maguire's style resembles that of a good novelist. She interweaves personal vignettes with imaginative hunches concerning the postulants' inner thoughts and feelings."
The Sunday Paper - Atlanta, Georgia (Wine&SpiritsJason Tesauro and Phineas Mollod (April 22, 2007)
"The book is a reverent meditative journey . .. where we witness the labors of finding God in the soul-shaking trials of silence, solace and physical struggles inside stone walls. A beautiful text, it reveals the men inside the monks, casting modern light on a corner of the world that hasn’t changed since the 11th century. If "Into Great Silence" is the hit show, "An Infinity of Little Hours" is VH1 “Behind the Monk" Carthusian tell all"
The Sunday Paper - Atlanta, Georgia (Wine&SpiritsJason Tesauro and Phineas Mollod (April 22, 2007)
"The book is a reverent meditative journey . .. where we witness the labors of finding God in the soul-shaking trials of silence, solace and physical struggles inside stone walls. A beautiful text, it reveals the men inside the monks, casting modern light on a corner of the world that hasn’t changed since the 11th century. If "Into Great Silence" is the hit show, "An Infinity of Little Hours" is VH1 “Behind the Monk" Carthusian tell all"
jewishcontemplatives.blogspot.com
"The “Elijah Question”, Mah l’cha po?, What are you doing here? is one which plagues the life of many a contemplative. I think that it is easier for those with a busy practical task in "Israel" to feel fulfilled and confident that they are “doing their best" or "doing something useful". It is far harder for someone attempting a spiritual "ministry" or hidden contemplative life to get the same direct satisfaction. Doubts are of course common to all. But, having tried both approaches to "Divine service" I think it is harder for vocational contemplatives. Take a look at An Infinity of Little Hours if you want to read a brilliant account of five Carthusians who tried to answer the "Elijah Question" in a wholly contemplative environment."
Americancatholic.orgFrank Frost (June, 2007)
"the film’s [Into Great Silence] Web site offers a link to a book about Carthusian life that was written concurrently and totally independently. This book, An Infinity of Little Hours, takes us inside the heads of monks like those we see in the film. The film and the book provide complementary glimpses into the profound mystery of contemplative life."
The Financial Times (UK)Christian Tyler (July 28/29, 2007)
"Maguire describes the postulant’s terror of the ‘noonday demon’ or ‘dark force’ which slows time to a crawl and turns life to dust. The novice master tells her: 'There is no getting away from oneself.’ . . . she also gives us—thanks to the extraordinary co-operation of inmates past and present—glimpses of what goes on inside the monks' heads and hearts. She reveals the inner process for which silence and solitude provide the indispensable medium."
thewittenburgdoor.comJohn Bloom (September, 2007)
"a riveting book . . . which follows five men in their early twenties. ….And despite the fact that they did virtually the same thing, at the same time, every day of their lives there, the narrative is full of high drama."
V Magazine for WomenJason Tesauro (September 1, 2007)
"Fittingly, I devoured this book over the Lenten weeks, finishing on Good Friday. Like Into Great Silence, the book is a reverent meditative journey. Together, the film and the book present a comprehensive view you could only otherwise get from having made the oath of solemn profession yourself."
SpiritualityandPractice.comFrederic and Mary Ann Brussat
"Fittingly, I devoured this book over the Lenten weeks, finishing on Good Friday. Like Into Great Silence, the book is a reverent meditative journey. Together, the film and the book present a comprehensive view you could only otherwise get from having made the oath of solemn profession yourself."
Ignatius Press(Summer, 2007)
"An Infinity of Little Hours is a uniquely intimate portrait of the customs and practices of a monastic order almost entirely unknown until now... A remarkable investigative work, the book combines first-hand testimony with unique source material to describe the Carthusian life."
Chicago TribuneJulia Keller (November 11, 2007)
"Maguire's book is also superbly understated, but clings to the reader' s thoughts like the scent of incense. Using letters, journals and interviews, she retraces the steps of five young men in the 1960s who aspired to be Carthusian monks. Her business to Parkminster, their ancient home in Britain, provided 'a portal to the eleventh century,’ Maguire writes. The spiritual using this of these young men -- who will stay, who will wash out? -- are intriguing, but Maguire also is a sensitive chronicler of how look place actually feels: 'Nothing is quite clean, dust in the air, and the damp is persuasive and permanent, getting deeper into the walls each decade... Always there is the smell of damp, sweaty, wool habits."
Frankfurter Allgemeine ZeitungGustav Falke (November 26, 2007)
"For the most part, In der Stille vieler kleiner Stunden, is about how novices adjust to the monks' day-to-day activities.... The author has had many long and rich conversations with the Prior of the English Charterhouse and has built a network of former Carthusians. These have led to a thorough understanding…. The book certainly has a few rich pages of surprise about the animosity and factionalism that the cloister can cause."
The Historian (Phi Alpha Theta)Vincent L. Wimbush (December, 2008)
"If books are to be judged by their power to transport the reader into other worlds and times, then this is a very good book, well worth the attention of serious scholars of many different interests and backgrounds... the book is fascinating and­in the way that powerful book should be­somewhat disturbing reading... the writing itself is a reader’s gift; it is crisp, simple, straight-forward, and vivid..... the reviewer recommends this fascinating book with enthusiasm.."
Collectio CartusianaBruno Rieder OSB (August, 2009)
"The book by Nancy Klein Maguire provides a realistic insight into the inner life of the Carthusian monks in a double sense: what transpires in the everyday life of Carthusian monks and what do they feel? This book achieves this.. . . She presents this material in a suspenseful manner and sometimes with pathos as a form of psychological novel chronologically following the most important stages in the life of the Carthusian novice. The reading matter is all the more suspenseful since the same experiences and situations are described from the perspective of numerous novices."
The Washington TimesJulia Duin (August 20, 2009)
"She [Nancy Klein Maguire] found almost no written material on this order. She began tracking down ex-monks to put together a book using material no one else has unearthed. The book, “An Infinity of Little Hours,” took her seven years of research. The monks she met gave her reams of personal notes and correspondence about their lives. . . .Her descriptions of the 11th-century conditions (the order was founded in 1084) these men lived in is fascinating."
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