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Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt [Hardcover]

Richard Holloway
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
Price: 12.23 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012
In one of the most remarkable memoirs of recent years, the acclaimed writer, respected thinker and outspoken former bishop Richard Holloway takes us back through a life defined by the biggest questions: Who am I? And what is God? At the tender age of fourteen, Richard Holloway left his home in the Vale of Leven, north of Glasgow, and travelled hundreds of miles to be educated and trained for the priesthood by a religious order in an English monastery. It was an intense, cloistered education for an impressionable young man. By twenty-five he had been ordained and was working in the slums of Glasgow. Throughout the forty years that followed, Richard touched the lives of many people in the Church and in the wider community. But behind his confident public face lay a restless, unquiet heart and a constantly searching mind. How can anyone claim a complete understanding of the mystery of existence? Why is the Church, which claims to be the instrument of God's love, so prone to cruelty and condemnation? And how can a man live with the tension between public faith and private doubt? In his long-awaited memoir, Richard seeks to answer these questions and to explain how, after many crises of faith, he finally and painfully left the Church. It is a wise, poetic and fiercely honest book. As a portrait of an inner life plagued by doubt, it is unsurpassed.

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Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt + Looking in the Distance: The Human Search for Meaning + Godless Morality
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857860739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857860736
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

At a time when the world has urgently needed wise and compassionate leadership, this poignant memoir, written with the integrity, intelligence and wit that we expect from Richard Holloway, lays bare the ludicrous and entirely unnecessary mess we have made of religion. --Karen Armstrong

Leaving Alexandria is many things. It is a compelling account of a journey through life, told with great frankness; it is a subtle reflection on what it means to live in an imperfect and puzzling world; and it is a highly readable insight into one of the most humane and engaged minds of our times. It is, quite simply, a wonderful book. --Alexander McCall Smith

Richard Holloway's memoir is endlessly vivid and fascinating. It's the record of a mind too large, too curious and far too generous to be confined within any single religious denomination. His account of how a passionate, intelligent boy grew out of a poor and deprived background without ever losing touch with the humane values it gave him, will be a delight and inspiration to believers, non-believers, and ex-believers alike. --Philip Pullman

An enlightening walk through a life that encompasses West Africa, the Gorbals, rent strikes, the divided self and the question of grace. --Mark Cousins, Scotland on Sunday

Nobody could fail to be intensely moved by the final chapters of his memoir . . . a deeply lovable man; and what a wonderful book he has written. --Mary Warnock, The Observer

Leaving Alexandria gives a profound sense of the benefits, as well as the difficulties, that accrue from taking a zigzag path through life . . . it summarises an argument that a lot of people will find sympathetic, as well as compelling. --Andrew Motion, Guardian

Captures the bewildering range of churches within the Church . . . Holloway certainly throws down the gauntlet - with a quiet, elegiac passion - to Christians who arm themselves in certainty . . . They should read this wide, erudite book as a matter of urgency. --David Robson, The Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

A powerful memoir about faith and doubt, with a strong meditative and philosophical heart --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A religious journey 30 Mar 2012
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I greatly admired Richard Holloway's book "Looking into the Distance" (see my review), so was eager to read this his autobiography. It chronicles his religious journey. This began with his entry at the age of 14 into the Anglo-Catholic Society of the Sacred Mission at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire, a monastic establishment which trained mainly working-class boys and young men for the priesthood. In due course he joined the novitiate. But already he fought internal battles, aware of his spiritual shortcomings. For this and for a variety of other reasons he resigned from the Order in his mid-twenties; but he remained an Anglo-Catholic, was ordained and became a curate in the Gorbals. Here he became aware of appalling social problems and of the call as Christian to engage in a very different kind of fight, not centred on himself but on the world.

More and more he felt that religion was made for man and not man for religion. He became increasingly impatient of doctrine, when it banned marriage between divorced people (and later between those of the same sex); most of all when it divided denominations to the extent that they would not share the Eucharist. And then he began to doubt not only the miracles of the Bible but the very existence of God; and he found it impossible to preach as if he believed in them. He talks about the "presence of an absence". Yet, hard though he found it to refute atheism, he did not want to abandon religion, increasingly beleaguered as it is in the world; and he found faith in those passages of the Bible which speak of Unconditional Love. This enabled him to accept a post as Rector of a church in Edinburgh in 1968.

It is perhaps surprising that, with his views, he was elected Bishop of Edinburgh in 1986.
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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and compelling read 5 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Richard Holloway always writes lucidly and in this memoir he is always engaging. The overwhelming impression was of someone of unusual honesty and integrity, telling the story of his life without spin and without trying to make a case for the defence. There are no barriers, or none that I could detect, in the issues he tackles, although this is not a blow-by-blow account of his personal life but more of his emotional and intellectual wrestling with the various problems, situations and issues with which he has had to deal - which range widely, encompassing (amongst others) sex, ethics, religion, faith, family, ideals and falling short. Although his personal life, of course, comes into it too.

I was torn between reading this voraciously in one sitting and spinning it out so as not to have to leave the company of such a wonderful man. In the end I couldn't put it down - a fabulous read, highly recommended.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Religion? You wouldn't buy it if it was on sale! 3 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
No 'bad' reviews, then! Quite right, too; although I often wonder if 'spoiler alert' shouldn't be prefaced in some reviews!

As usual, the 'parts of its sum' have been well documented here already and I can only concur with the vast majority of what's been written.

One (extremely) slight caveat, however,...I know! I know! You saw it coming!...the concept (not the substance) of his 'doubt' can be just a wee bit repetitive. At times I found myself thinking, particularly at the 3/4 thru' stage of the book, 'I get it; I get it'. Having said that, I may be being a might pedantic. The book in its totality is a genuine delight for the mind as well as the heart and 'soul' (whatever that is!) and his imaginative and creative way with imagery is peerless. A wonderfully absorbing, humane and compassionate man leaps out at the reader. We are fortunate, indeed, to have his ilk in our midst. More power to his pen!
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. V. Stewart VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one amazing book by a man whose luminescent humanity combines with piercing honesty to produce a masterpiece - and it's a masterpiece whether it gets classified as autobiography, theology, history or literature. It's one of those books where every page provokes an imaginary conversation with the author, and you know that the conversation would be (to quote his beloved Manley Hopkins) counter, original, spare, and strange.

The author found himself attracted to the religious life from an early age, pulled by its asceticism and its demands for total commitment but increasingly conscious of the accompanying temptations to self-dramatise and to profess certainty and authority as a defence against honest doubt. (He became a bishop; he chucked his mitre into the Thames. Enough said?). Through ministering to the poor and dispossed in Glasgow and then in Edinburgh he came to see that whle all else in religion can (and should) be questioned, what remains is the impulse for pity and the man Jesus. To these - and to his family and the hills of Scotland - he adheres, but he's angry about the damage done by organised Christianity. Especially he's angry about religion's eagerness to condemn those whom life has bruised (so, against the rules, he's married divorced people) and religion's attitude to anyone who doesn't have a penis or make strictly limited use of the one they've got (so, bless him, he's married gay people and he's argued for women's ordination). He's actively and intelligently on the side of the good guys.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A DifficultJourney
an interesting, well written and honest accout of an eminent church leader's struggles with his Faith., Holloway's spiritual journey takes him through controversial areas i. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Kathleen A. Goodacre
5.0 out of 5 stars A stiring experence
This biographical memoir will help to explain who Richard is today and why he is so worthy of your attention.
Published 2 months ago by J. W. James
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific read
I was captures by the style, insight and honesty. The ability to express and recognise his own emotions impressed me
Published 2 months ago by Sandra Aveyard
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
A fascinating account of his struggles with his faith. A very readable style made this interesting and enjoyable book. Thoroughly recommended.
Published 2 months ago by G. Rowe
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - touched my experience at several points
I had read reviews and also the poem Leaving Alexandria. Unusually frank review of experience of Anglo- Catholicism in mid 20th century.
Published 2 months ago by emeritus
5.0 out of 5 stars Di do do do Di da da da
In a world where only lives count this life (and this autobiography) is one that has mattered, does matter and will matter very greatly. Read more
Published 2 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
Being a memoir I found this much easier to read that 'solid theology'. I found it unsparingly honest, astute, poignant, and in places laugh-out-loud funny. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Merel's Grandma
5.0 out of 5 stars We all wear masks
The beautiful opening of this book takes us t what remains of Kelham Theological College, a place that has haunted the author throughout his life. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity wins!
This is simply one of the best books I've ever read. Not because I agree with Richard Holloway on every theological point (I'm an evangelical), but because his openness,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Maverick
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting read
thought provoking, it is the type of book that you mull over for a long while after finishing it and inspires you to read more books on the themes examined.
Published 4 months ago by K A McCormack
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