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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2000
When I first stumbled on this book, I was curious as to what the author meant by a history of celibacy. After all, don't almost all of us want to know about quite the opposite? So I read the book. I was absolutely enthralled with this book. I think Abbott's style is quite readable and the subject matter is fascinating. I would definitely recommend this book.
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on December 30, 2001
A fabulously well-written book that offers one a great deal of food for thought. Yes, at times agonizingly explicit, but real and humanly written. More than expose or a simple history, but a personal journey, which the author herself took and took something from. Its breadth is commanding and admirable, its style is at once extremely academic and in the same instant entirely readable and smooth flowing.
In this day and age of non-interest in sex yielding implications of psychological imbalance or worse, it is nice to have something to refer to, something that clarifies the history and purpose of celibacy in all its negative and positive implications. An excellently researched and presented treastise.
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on June 30, 2000
Despite getting bogged down in various minutae in regards to different religious sects, this book is an entertaining and informative read. The author adroitly links the cultural mores of societies across the earth, and analyzes the reasons for celibacy or eternal virginity among different religions and cultures. She also, interestingly enough, emphasizes the practical nature of celibacy, and the role it plays in today's sex-driven culture. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a bit of odd cultural history or someone just interested in the rise and fall of celibacy.
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on June 6, 2001
I read the hardcover edition of the book, before all the wonderful press it received, but I am enamoured by this paperback cover. It brings the title alive with its lush colors and wonderful cover art. Abbott writes well and brings together a variety of aspects that have long been a part of celibacy. From the various saints who shunned sexual intimacy to the modern-day virgins who've never "had" sex (but have had intimate relations) - Abbott provides a insider's view on this lifestyle.
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on July 11, 2000
It's a bit hard to take her discussion of the Shakers seriously considering she does not consult the scholarly work of Louis J. Kern. His penetrating insights would have illuminated this portion of her book further. Otherwise, this book does give the reader a sense of why one would become celibate in a certain place and at a certain time.
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on September 3, 2000
Well researched and well written, this is a book I would have liked to have written myself -- so I read it with great pleasure. A sensitive but searching investigation into what can be a joyful sexual choice or a bitter deprivation. Read this. It's good. It's not just another "self help" blather. It's a real book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2000
It's hard to imagine two words that could do more to kill a book's sales than "history" and "celibacy" ("algebra" and "asphyxia," perhaps). Nevertheless, A History of Celibacy has proven a huge best-seller in Canada (if that counts), giving South Park fans one more reason to hoot in derision at their northern neighbors.
Toronto historian Elizabeth Abbott traces religious celibacy in exhaustive detail from Athena and the vestal virgins of pagan Rome to the Catholic obsession with virginity and the role of self-denial in the Buddhist and Hindu faiths. If the reader can get past Abbott's sociology-textbook prose in these first 200 pages, the book picks up considerably in the second half as she turns her attention to celibacy in the secular world. Abbott pokes fun at the Male Purity Movement of the 19th century and the scientifically unproven link between abstinence and improved athletic performance, but she appears completely sympathetic with female celibacy to transcend traditional gender roles (the section on Elizabeth I is particularly poignant).
Under Abbott's double standard, women in secular society give up sex for career or country (Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Rachel Carson), whereas men abstain because they are repressed homosexuals, incurable pedophiles or superstitious jocks (Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Carroll, Muhammad Ali). Equally discomfiting is Abbott's account of her own conversion to celibacy: "Much as I once reveled in sexual indulgence...I am immensely relieved that someone else's domestic demands no longer dominate my daily agenda." Yeah, love stinks.
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