Seminary Boy: A Memoir

Front Cover
Random House, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 321 pages
2 Reviews

John Cornwell evokes a vanished time and way of life in this moving and, at times, troubling memoir of an adolescence spent in the isolated all-male world of the seminary.

Born into a destitute family with a dominating Irish-Catholic mother and an absconding father during World War II in London, John Cornwell's childhood was deeply dysfunctional. When he was thirteen years old he was sent to Cotton College, a remote seminary for boys in the West Midlands countryside. For the next five years Cornwell lived under an austere monastic regime as he wrestled with his emotional and spiritual demons. In the hothouse atmosphere of the seminary he strove to find stable, loving friendships among his fellows and fatherly support from the priests, one of whom proved to be a sexual predator.

The wild countryside around the seminary, the moving power of church ritual and music, and a charismatic priest enabled him to persevere. But while normal teenagers were being swept up by the rock 'n' roll era, Cornwell and his fellow seminarians continued to be emotionally and socially repressed. Secret romantic attachments between seminarians were not uncommon; on visits home they were overwhelmed by the powerful attractions of the emerging youth culture of the 1950s. But when they returned to Cotton College, the boys were once again governed by the age-old traditions and disciplines of seminary life. And like many young seminarians, Cornwell struggled with a natural adolescent rebelliousness, which in one crucial instance provoked a crisis that would eventually lead to his decision to abandon his dream of becoming a priest.

Written with tremendous warmth and humor, Seminary Boy is a truly unforgettable memoir and a penetrating glimpse into the hidden world of seminary life.

 

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Seminary boy

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Cornwell, author, journalist, and fellow at Jesus College in Cambridge, England, here tells the story of his life at an all-male school in the 1950s. Son of a struggling working-class family in London ... Read full review

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Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
10
Section 3
12
Section 4
20
Section 5
38
Section 6
43
Section 7
48
Section 8
56
Section 23
163
Section 24
167
Section 25
169
Section 26
176
Section 27
187
Section 28
194
Section 29
200
Section 30
205

Section 9
63
Section 10
74
Section 11
88
Section 12
92
Section 13
94
Section 14
110
Section 15
112
Section 16
120
Section 17
125
Section 18
128
Section 19
134
Section 20
141
Section 21
154
Section 22
159
Section 31
215
Section 32
220
Section 33
227
Section 34
230
Section 35
232
Section 36
254
Section 37
264
Section 38
283
Section 39
285
Section 40
292
Section 41
301
Section 42
327
Section 43
333
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About the author (2007)

JOHN CORNWELL is the author of the international bestseller Hitler's Pope and of The Pontiff in Winter. An award-winning journalist, he has written for Vanity Fair, the Sunday Times (London), Commonweal, and the Tablet. He directs the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge .

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