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Customer Review

on 28 October 2006
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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4.6 out of 5 stars