In The Sanctuary of Outcasts, Neil White

I had no idea what to expect from this book. It was simply something to read that looked vaguely interesting and I had nothing else on my shelf. The story itself is relatively interesting. Meet Neil White, convicted for bank fraud he spends a year in a low security prison which doubles as a sanctuary for lepers. A true story.

I really wanted to love this book. White is so clearly trying to do penance through this writing, trying to explain and expose and perhaps, on some level, to forgive himself for all he caused his family to suffer and experience. There are fragile moments of perfection in this telling – White’s connection with Ella and her story, his friendship with some of the prison inmates. These stand out as stellar insights in a memoir that somehow lacked something and left me feeling disappointed. It sounds judgemental to be disappointed by a man’s telling of his own experiences, but I felt as though there was too much that was predictable in the way this text was structured and told, so much so that I didn’t feel the need to finish it and this is highly uncharacteristic.

I love the fact that White had the strength to write this book as it is confrontational on so many levels and consequently, I really did want to love this book. But, I didn’t and I feel like I should apologise for that to White himself … (does that even make sense?). Perhaps it was the fact that I read this on the back of a dry reading patch or that I was so busy with other things … I am not sure. I only know that I wanted to bowled over and I wasn’t and I’m sorry for that.


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