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Seminary Boy: A Memoir

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  70 ratings  ·  14 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
Paperback, 334 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Image (first published January 1st 2006)
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This book is not for everyone. Given my fascination with Catholicism, I suppose that I was primed to find this book interesting. However, as intriguing as this memoir is as an evocation of a lost time and unfamiliar culture, I was soon overcome rather by the simple, painful story of a soul. It is a work of interior and spiritual biography, not unlike Augustine's Confessions. Its sincerity and honesty arewhat give it much of its power, but be warned, the book is very frank (without ever becoming- ...more
Mar 02, 2008 Becky rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in Catholicism, religion, spirituality, the spiritual life
Cornwell, a former juvenile delinquent, developed a religious calling and was sent off to a Catholic junior seminary when he was in his early teens.

This highly readable memoir reads like a novel. One really feels Cornwell's affection for the seminary that took him out of a tumultuous, poverty-stricken home life. Also palpable, painfully so, is young Cornwell's anguish and confusion as to what a junior seminarian is supposed to do about his budding sexuality.

Speaking of sex, yes, the book does co
J.M. Cornwell
The journey from impoverished adolescent thug to the cloistered halls of a Catholic seminary.

John Cornwell was quick with his fists and intelligent enough to be dangerous. He was headed for a life of crime until a poor parish priest showed him another road. Head of a growing gang of youthful thugs and exiled to the hall in public school, John was considered a waste of space and education. His domineering Irish mother and his crippled and often absent father fought constantly, often throwing thin
Beth Withers
I'm not sure why I picked up this book, but I'm glad I did. I enjoy memoirs, and this one was well written. Cornwell spent some years as a teenager in a minor seminary, preparing to train as a priest. The book was a window into a world I know nothing about, and since I enjoy learning, the book was interesting. Not being Catholic, however, I did find parts of it hard to follow when he speaks of the daily rituals and routines that involve the church. I appreciate the honesty also.
James T Kelly
Cornwell does a great job in giving the reader an insight into the mind of a boy who decides he wants to be a priest. His descriptions, too, of the seminary and the pre-Vatican II priesthood is very interesting. But, sadly, that's all. There's not much of an emotional connection, nor is there much of an arc to his story. It is, instead, a string of unrelated incidents. A lot of time was spent on his early life, but his later dissatisfaction with the church was rushed and glossed over. He also ha ...more
I've been cleaning up my book-shelves... obviously the unread book section.

I came upon this book through work... a draft sent to be reviewed by the paper. Instead, contrary to the hopes of the publisher, this book found itself in a pile for any staff member to take home and read.

Coming from a family of Catholics... with grandparents as devout as they could come; I wanted to read a book about a time when it was considered a great honor to have a seminarian in the family. I really feel it would ha
Andrew Watson
When John Cornwell describes his life prior to the junior seminary, his time at there and when he looks back at what it taught him, this book is fascinating. In spite of its many imperfections, Cotton made John Cornwell. In between time, we get a great deal of detail about events that simply drag; I'm not sure I wanted to know about them either...
Very interesting insite into what it was like for boys in 1950s England to go to minor seminary (a school for boys that were thinking of joining the priesthood). Really tough experience and a lot of devious things going on, but very interesting nonetheless!
Cynthia Karl
This was a memoir written by an Englishman who entered pre-seminary around age 13 in the 1950s. The descriptions of his home life, the period, the place and his time at the seminary make for an interesting read.
What a family life he overcame!! Interesting to consider that priests need family which they do not have while they counsel people about their lives.. they need friends... a contradiction it seems..
I love memoirs. As a former Catholic, it was fascinating to me to get an inside glimpse at this former seminarian's upbringing and schooling.
Liddy Barlow
Cornwall describes his experiences at a Catholic boarding school for future priests in the England of the 1950s.
Dec 23, 2010 Karen added it
an eye opener
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