Michele Roberts

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The Spiral Staircase: A Memoir

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HarperCollins 343pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

KAREN ARMSTRONG'S FIRST memoir, Through the Narrow Gate, described the seven years she spent in a strictly-run convent, struggling to fulfil her religious vocation, until increasing unhappiness and dl health compelled her to leave. The book ended with her starting a new life as an undergraduate reading English at St Anne's College, Oxford. This second memoir, written many years later, takes up the story from there.

With hindsight, Armstrong is able to see that her entry into the convent was not that remarkable, given the ghetto-like existence of English Catholics in the 1950s and the lack of worldly opportunities at that time for ambitious, intellectual young

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