01 April 2021, The Tablet

A new kind of story

A new kind of story

Sarah Sands
Photo: PA/Alamy


The Interior Silence: 10 Lessons from Monastic Life
Sarah Sands
(SHORT BOOKS, 256 PP, £12.99)
Tablet bookshop price £11.69 • tel 020 7799 4064

Sarah Sands’ The Interior Silence is an audacious grail quest for the pandemic era. Along the way, she encounters monastic heroes whose dedication wounds her pride but whose love heals those same wounds, emboldening her to question the role of the news media to which she has ­dedicated her professional life. Yet she never romanticises monastic life and even refers to the taint of abuse in monasteries. At the start of the book she is the editor of Radio 4’s Today, the BBC’s flagship morning news programme. As the demands of her job overload her mind, she comes to realise that “news counts but meaning matters more”. Retaining her ­journalist’s ability to write such memorable phrases, she seeks a new kind of story.

The Holy Grail she seeks is peace of mind, and she is drawn to monasteries as places where she might find it. Her curiosity about monasteries was first stirred by a medieval wall on the edge of her Norfolk garden, the ruined remains of Marham Abbey, a thirteenth-century Cistercian monastery of nuns. “I knew they touched me deeply but did not know why.” So she sets about ­resolving that uncertainty.

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