Catherine's Reviews > The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong
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's review
Oct 22, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010, england, israel, spirit

This was an intellectually fascinating book that failed to capture me emotionally. I valued Armstrong's story of her years in a convent, her rejection of that lifestyle, her subsequent attempt to find a niche in academia, and her eventual success as a independent researcher and writer of religious history. Her description of trauma resonated deeply with me, as did her long journey to find a way beyond that trauma to a fulfilling social life. Yet I didn't connect to her joys, nor to her despondency - perhaps because it was described in such cerebral terms as to hold the reader at arms length (or for Armstrong to hold those memories at the same distance?)

That said, Armstrong's final chapter - her conclusion that religious systems of all stripes are mechanisms by which we seek to become better, more compassionate people through the process of *doing* things - is fascinating, and has given me much to contemplate about the value of ritual.

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