Through the Narrow Gate

A Memoir of Life In and Out of the Convent

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Available in Canada for the first time since its initial publication in 1981, this is acclaimed author Karen Armstrong’s classic memoir of her life as a young woman in a convent — the precursor to the bestseller The Spiral Staircase.

Through the Narrow Gate is Karen Armstrong’s intimate memoir of life inside a Catholic convent. With honesty and clarity, she explains what drove her at age seventeen to devote herself to God. Over the next seven years, she endures the difficulties of convent life — the enforced silence, the lack of friendship and family, her own guilt at not being able to stifle her voracious intelligence — and unveils the secrets of religious life during the post–Vatican II years.

Through the Narrow Gate is a moving account of a young woman’s search for God and the experiences that put Karen Armstrong on her way to becoming one of the most admired and most respected interpreters of religious faith.


“The most full and honest book that I’ve read on this subject.”
—Mary McCarthy, author of Memories of a Catholic Girlhood

“A scrupulous record of one woman’s spiritual journey, excellently written and profoundly moving."

“An emotive, spiritually intimate, and often quite moving memoir ... written with affection, some humour, and bittersweet regret.”
Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Karen Armstrong:
“Karen Armstrong is a genius.”
—A. N. Wilson, author of Jesus: A Life

“Armstrong has a dazzling ability: she can take a long and complex subject and reduce it to the fundamentals, without oversimplifying.”
The Sunday Times

“Armstrong is a lucid writer with a knack for synthesizing vast quantities of research. Formidable learning and a clear analytical eye.”
The Globe and Mail