This is the second autobiographical book by Armstrong. The first dealt with her seven years of convent life, this second book deals with her experiencing a lack of faith, leaving the convent and re-entering the world once more.
Just before I read this, Armstrong published The Spiral Staircase – a re-telling of this portion of her autobiography. Since she’s read and written much since 1983 when this was published I imagine her perspective has altered somewhat but I was interested to know what she thought, closest to the period discussed. Having entered a convent in her teens, Armstrong was studying at Oxford when she realised she had lost her faith and had to leave the order. This book is an attempt to share the experience of losing faith, going back into the world and finding a new life.
It’s well-told, if a little too forgiving in places about the rough treatment she received after mistaking epilepsy for madness and seeking out a psychiatrist or the rejection of her doctoral thesis by an external assessor as off topic (after her tutors had advised it was fine). She never fights back and rarely shows anger.
Despite being such an unusual story told by an unusually placid narrator, this is genuinely interesting and shows how even a fractured, vulnerable soul can find hope, new faith and a place in the world again.
Rating: 7/10 (My Book Review Scale)