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Books

Sex, secrets, and self-mortification: the dark side of the confessional

A review of The Dark Box, by John Cornwell. This angry history of confession is sinfully enjoyable

1 March 2014

9:00 AM

1 March 2014

9:00 AM

The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession John Cornwell

Profile Books, pp.288, £16.99, ISBN: 9781781251089

I have a confession to make. I really enjoyed this book. It’s been a while since I admitted something of the sort, and I feel ashamed, because, although it’s smartly, smoothly written, my pleasure was partly based on titillation. I smirked — I occasionally snickered — at the madder facts of self-mortification, whereby in the Middle Ages the (frequently female) faithful might flaunt their holiness in acts of rank humility.

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