Jane Trahey •
Life with Mother Superior
(also published as The Trouble with Angels) •
Life with Mother Superior is a winner on every level: a completely original story told with gusto, bemusement, and a sharp eye for comedy. Trahey has the gift of knowing just where to end a chapter for maximum dramatic effect—which could be a by-product of her career in advertising, but could also be attributed to the influence of her juvenile partner in crime, Mary Clancey.
Clancey and Trahey meet when they’re packed off to the convent school of St. Marks, where they engage in a round of riotous misbehavior. While the sisters attend chapel, the pair conduct secret tours of the nuns’ private chambers in the cloister, charging pocket change for their classmates to gape and ooh and aah. Trahey’s urgent attempts to kiss a boy from St. Giles are thwarted by his hay fever; Clancey is regularly called on the carpet for offenses such as encasing a fellow student in plaster of Paris. Their experiments with smoking bring out the wrath of the Reverend Mother, who finally expels them both. But getting caught and punished each time does nothing to discourage the girls from pursuing their next wild scheme.
If the plot sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve seen the film version of this book. Columbia Pictures recognized Trahey’s memoir as a hot property and snapped up the screen rights that resulted in The Trouble with Angels, a 1966 production starring Hayley Mills. Charming as the movie is, I still find the book—forgive me—superior.