The time of the Inquisition in Spain provides what might have been a colorful and dramatic background for the story of Catalina, a crippled girl made whole by divine intervention and faith. Somehow, Somerset Maugham has lost his old magic- and the story emerges as a dry and colorless tale of false pretensions and arrogant pride within the Carmelite Convent; of the superstitions and fears and intolerances that dominated even the rule of so godly a man as the Bishop of Segovia, who hesitates to assume the power that is thrust upon him, but who accepts it as preordained when his brother, the humble baker, is used as the direct instrument. Catalina's stubborn determination to withstand the pressure put upon her to enter the sisterhood, for the glory of Beatrix, wins her freedom, marriage to the vacillating Diego, and the chance to make a name for herself as an actress. Lots of ingredients for a romantic picaresque novel, motivated by miraculous intervention of Heaven at the psychological moments -- but somehow it never coheres, and the parts are better than the whole. The Maugham name suffered something of an eclipse with Then and Now. This wont add to his stature.