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on 3 April 2013
Despite believing that the 'Alexandria' of the title was in Egypt when I first heard of the book, I was pleased to find it actually referred to the town west of Glasgow - an area I am familiar with, as is also the case about the other places Richard Holloway describes. However, such geographical knowledge is not required to find his examination of the evolution of his religious philosophy both intellectually demanding and interesting. I felt he is a man I'd like to meet, genuinely concerned about modern day issues such as poverty and sexuality and not afraid to discuss his beliefs openly, even when they challenge the accepted norms of his church. The title is accurate - the book is a study of 'faith and doubt', set against stages in Holloway's life, but it is not a biography and, personally, I would have enjoyed the book even more had the life story been a little more rounded.
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on 7 May 2014
I am so pleased I bought this book. I didn't have a clue who the author was. I bought it because I thought it was a memoir about Alexandria, Egypt! It was on sale for 99p and I'm interested in the Middle East. Well, it's a memoir based in a few places but none of them Egypt! The author is from Alexandria, Scotland! But he's an incredibly interesting man. A deep thinker and although I'm not terribly interested in religion his thoughts on it are ones that everyone could do with thinking about. I am so grateful he wrote the book, sharing his story with us. I can't recommend it enough and I can wholeheartedly recommend paying full price for it!
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on 29 May 2013
I found this book really inspiring. The writer describes very well his journey involving all the struggles that are familiar as we try to embrace a more adult faith. I felt a real sense of connection with his desire to find meaning in all of life's challenges. Long after I had finished reading this book I was left with a sense of a man of great integrity who had immense courage to follow his truth and I imagine will support many in having had the love of humanity which allowed him to be so vulnerable in sharing his journey with us. I felt supported by the sense of someone who shared my own longing for meaning with the sad realisation that what gave meaning in the past does not necessarily do so now and yet "I am tugged still by the possibility of the transcendent".
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on 20 April 2013
I didn't want to stop reading this book, yet I wanted to savour every word.

I first heard Richard Holloway speak in 1995 and he was spell-binding to listen to. I know that much has happened to him since then which this book addresses, as it does his early years. It is well-titled, for it is not an autobiography but indeed a memoir. It also, trustingly and honestly, addresses his journey with both God and the Church.

Although I am not a priest, and therefore come from a different perspective, I have nevertheless been a Christian all my life, caught from an early age. Therefore, much of what he speaks about resonates with my thoughts and indeed clarifies and strengthens them. I feel for him so much. His words, and his choice of poetry, touched my heart. He is still spell-binding, and speaks of the realism of balancing life's journey either side of that fine line between faith and doubt. For me he is unique and inspiring - a courageous and deep-thinking 21st century man of God and I feel privileged to be allowed this window into his life.
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on 9 May 2012
This personal autobiographical journey through the life of a sincere and open man is a tonic to those of us who struggle with our faith. If there's one thing Holloway can't stand it's intolerance. In spite of his extraordinarily well expressed self doubt and doubt about the existence or absence of greater meaning he brings humanity and real people behaving in real ways into focus to cast light and maybe offer some grounds for hope to the hopeless.
Maybe the flickering, guttering candle of faith need not be extinguished however little we understand?
I also enjoyed his flights of poetry and nuggets from great thinkers and writers glossed in his own lyrical prose. Beautifully written, deeply thought through, maybe it does meander, but is that not the way of all lives - especially of those who walk energetically without being sure of their purpose or the destination?
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on 4 January 2013
As Christmas presents go, this one was a winner: Richard Holloway's memoir `Leaving Alexandria', which I opened on Christmas afternoon, and finished - 350 pages later - on Boxing Day.

A former radical Bishop of Edinburgh, Holloway admits to a tendency to view his life as if he were a detached observer seeing himself in a film. Certainly the book as whole has this epic quality: from an unpromising start in life - born into poverty in a working-class backwater near Dumbarton (Alexandria) - Holloway ascends through a lengthy theological apprenticeship at a monastic institution in England to eventually become the most charismatic and controversial religious figure in Scotland in the 20th century.

Two trajectories run in parallel throughout the book. One is the extraordinary career that unfolds over nearly eight decades. If I'm not mistaken, Holloway never goes looking for a job; he is always found, or recommended, or asked to apply. It is as if his charisma runs ahead of him throughout, laying the golden slabs of a career path that took him from Edinburgh, to Boston, to Oxford, and back to Edinburgh - as Bishop. The dark side of this conveyor-belt career are those times when others decide he is a danger - and he is quietly ousted - ejected from the Society of the Sacred Mission in which he was a novice, for admitting to being a red-blooded male. And of course, ousted from his Diocese at the other end of his life, by people - seemingly - with small hearts and small minds.

The other trajectory of the book is his inner life. I found it fascinating to follow the twists and turns of a man struggling towards honesty - honesty with himself, above all. The fact that he finds it is an exhilarating triumph, and is of course what makes this courageous book ring true. Yet this same honesty is what led him to being crucified by those he came to serve.

This is a book packed with insight, poignancy, humour, humility, and yes, radical honesty. Even if readers don't share the same conclusions as the author, they will find themselves purged in the cool clear water of his candour, and challenged to follow his example. It's a book I will be thinking about for a long time to come.
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on 1 May 2012
I have always enjoyed reading Richard Holloway's books, although I was saddened when he left the church. Like all his books, this was beautifully written and I can empathise with much that he has thought, agonised over, and finally acted upon. However, in effectively walking away he has simply confirmed his conservative evangelical antagonists in their opinions, and I suspect that their response will be, "I told you so! He was always suspect!" In that sense it makes it all the harder for those of us who try to remain within the Church while opposing conservative evangelical certainties. Nevertheless, it's a book well worth reading.
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on 19 July 2012
A most interesting book. I was not much moved by Holloway's religious dilemmas as I dispute his basic premises. He skates over this early life in Alexandria and his relationship to his father and mother. They must have been shocked at his move to Kelham Hall, which sounds grim to me, although Holloway claims he loved it. His move to Accra (and his sexual hang-ups) opened his eyes a bit and ordination followed. His ministry in the Gorbals was when he really lost his belief in God, though he fought against it for many years. He seemed happiest at Old St Pauls in Edinburgh but he should have made his career in social work - he would have become a well-paid leader of that pack.

It is easy to scoff and certainly Holloway swallowed whole every lefty shibboleth going - CND, US Civil Rights, Gay Power etc - and the Scottish Episcopalians were mad to promote such a subversive spirit.He must have some considerable persuasiveness and dynamism to gain the support he did. He must have driven his wife potty. Yet he writes eloquently about God's "absence" and his drifting, which shows courage and self-awareness. I liked too his descriptions of places and his walking compulsions. Most of all,I liked his poetic streak - he is clearly a fan of Gerald Manley Hopkins, a poet I hardly know.- and generally he has a very civilised mind, though he did not control his tongue, when he should have known better. An unusual and stimulating memoir.
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on 3 July 2013
I have admired Richard Holloway's honesty - objectively and subjectively - over the years and like many who have read his books, I have been greatly helped rather than have my own faith being damaged. Almost all his writings are like a breath of fresh air in areas in which traditional theology and belief can be suffocating and soul "cramping".

Richard's memoir of faith - a very personal autobiography of faith and doubt - has moved and helped me as I know that it has for many, many others. I dare you to read it if, like me, you can find your own doubts somewhat stifling at times.

I now want to read it again! It's rather refreshing, but do read it even if you don't wish to question your own faith
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on 5 February 2013
A truly refreshing, honest and beautifully written account of the ex-Bishop of Edinburgh's journey of faith. He has wit and wisdom and is, I believe, a kind and caring man. This book is important in the strange age we live in now where science has cast a long shadow over spiritual belief especially in the West where Christianity has traditionally held sway. We still have no answers to ultimate questions or indeed to the purpose of life, science or no. The search is what matters but a balance between the material and spiritual world we live in is important to maintain for our health and well-being. Richard Holloway's journey throws light into the shadows. Magg.
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