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Seminary Boy Hardcover – 4 Sep 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1st edition (4 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007232438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007232437
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 854,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘“Seminary Boy” is a complex story written with beautiful and brutal exactness…an intensely involving, carefully paced book by one of the most thoughtful and well-informed of Catholic writers. A story about the loss of faith and its eventual return, it has the hold of good fiction and the grip of sober truth.’ The Guardian

‘What makes it so gripping (and it is one of the most gripping memoirs I have read for years) is its incisive style.’ Sunday Times

'A fiercely honest account of a long-vanished world, which makes clear why Cornwell has become such a trenchant critic of the Catholic Church but also why he is still drawn to it so powerfully.' The Independent

'Richly satisfying…There is a sensitive intelligence at work in this book. Moving yet unsentimental, and stunning well written, it begs a sequel.' Daily Telegraph

‘Apart from its beautiful writing, what stamps “Seminary Boy“ as a classic story of growing up is the kaleidoscope of perspectives it offers on the mystery of being…Layer after layer of art and truth compete for your attention, and the ambiguities are intrinsic to the power of the writing.’ The Spectator

‘The true journey of a soul.’ Tobias Wolff

‘Subtle and balanced…Catholicism, beautifully evoked in this restless book, is not the usual pious paraphernalia but the stubborn persistence of its hold on the human imagination.’ Literary Review

‘(Recorded) in a brisk and forceful, sometimes staccato prose that drives his story forward.’ The Times

'Deserves a place along side David Lodges “How Far Can You Go?” as an affectionate but unblinking evocation of a unique era of English Catholicism, now in danger of beng forgotten.' The Tablet

‘One of the subtlest and most moving books on the father-son predicament that I have ever read – and I couldn’t recommend it more strongly.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Compulsive reading.’ Karen Armstrong, New Statesman

‘A compelling autobiography.' The Church Times

From the Publisher

Seminary Boy is a book of tremendous warmth and humour which
is destined to become a classic memoir of childhood.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Pugin on 28 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully evocative account of life in a small Catholic boarding school in the 1950s, set at the head of a lush, green valley in North Staffordshire in the UK. The author shows rather than tells us what it was like to live within the walls of this College whose intake was a mixture of lay boys and boys who. like Cornwell, intended to go on to study for the priesthood, and whose teachers were mainly priests who had themselves been pupils at the school, who, in turn, had been taught by priests who ... going back two centuries to the foundation of the school in penal times, by priests who had been trained at the English College in Douay, Flanders, founded by Cardinal Allen in 1568. The traditional spirituality of this place, with its extraordinary history of Catholic recusancy, was intense,inspiring and heroic, but also isolating in its interior privacy and moral anxiety, in a way that Cornwell brings out very vividly in his descriptions of his own lonely scruples and adolescent sexual anguish. There are many poignant and shrewd vignettes of well-meaning teachers who seemed to suffer and transmit the very moral anxiety that Cornwell himself suffered from. This is not simply an account of a time long past but, on the contrary, it shows in detail and from experience the deeply rooted attitudes that have cast a long shadow over the subsequent history and contemporary troubles of the Catholic Church.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 12 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was absolutely riveting and I enjoyed sharing these moments of John Cornwell's life. Although not experiencing the same schooling within the junior seminary, my own experience of being taught by nuns and Christian Brothers during roughly the same time period evoked a Catholic childhood which has left its indelible stain. Cornwell draws you into his seminary life and this in itself must have been a tremendous catharsis. One is left wondering about the characters that were a formative part of Cornwell's experience and what might have happened to them after leaving the seminary at short notice. A Catholic upbringing helps to understand some of the spiritual aspects of Catholicism, but even from a pure autobiographical point of view, Cornwell has probably inadvertantly left a useful documentary of East End life after the War, which provides a balance between the rigours of seminary life with the even grimmer details of Catholic working class family life.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S K Wilson on 24 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Seminary Boy is a stunningly written memoir, and compares with Edmund Gosse's Father and Son. I have never read such a gripping, deeply affecting spiritual journey written with such passion. It is destined to be a classic and I cannot recommend it more highly. The rave reviews I have seen in the national press do not surprise me. Read it!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rev. D. Sutcliffe on 12 May 2007
Format: Paperback
I found this book engrossing and rather moving. Perhaps this was because I went through many of the same experiences at the same age at another junior seminary.

How did well-meaning people subject very young adolescents to such treatment!

Like John I was extremely devoted to what I believed was my "calling", but unlike him I was desperately unhappy, suffering terrible homesickness. This I "offered up" as part of the sacrifice to be made to become a priest.

Eventually I did end my seminary studies and like John became lukewarm about the Church.

After thirty years I resumed my studies for the priesthood in a rather different orientated church and am now practising as a (rather scarred) priest.

This is why I find his experiences such an true account of what so many youngsters were subjected to in their desire to serve God.

The only thing he does miss out on is the marvellous education, academically, that these institutions delivered to many who would never have made it to a grammar school.He benefited from that as have others who have ended up in quite exalted university positions.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. P. Furlong on 5 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
Writen by Frank Furlong - I found this one of the most enjoyable memoirs I have ever read - and biographies are my favourite reading matter. JC has captured the essence of a piece of social history which no longer exists and he gives a sympathetic pictute of the life and personalities of the time. Young boy's are no longer taken away from home to be trained for the priesthood. Candidates these days must have some experience of life. But speaking as one of the boys concerned I must congratulate JC on his entertaining and very readable account of a way of life which no longer exists.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Emily Glencross on 26 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
John Cornwell's memoir combines a very particular childhood with an important piece of social history that mustn't be lost. You don't need to have had a catholic upbringing to be able to identify with many aspects of Cornwell's upbringing - painful, funny and often poignant. I defy anyone to be able to put it down without getting to the last page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mungo on 12 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written and remarkably gripping. I have read three of John Cornwell's books now and have enjoyed them all. He is a first class writer.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Barrie on 3 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
A well-written and very moving memoir. I was gripped from the start by the author's ability to 'hold me in' to his story, and by his excellent writing. A truly superb book and one that I would definitely recommend.
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