Taken on Trust by Terry Waite
Anniversary edition of Waite's compelling autobiography detailing his captivity ordeal, with new (but disappointing) chapter
Taken on Trust
By Terry Waite
Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN 978-1-473- 63711-5
Reviewer: Martin Poole
The graphic account given by Terry Waite, covering an almost unendurable period of nearly four years in solitary confinement, is a harrowing narrative that demands to be read.
He writes very honestly and humbly – “I wish I could be more profound in my spiritual life… I have no deep thoughts, no great insights, no outstanding qualities. I am a very ordinary man chained to a wall and attempting to struggle through another day of boredom and uncertainty”.
While the book is essentially autobiographic, it cleverly moves back and forth between the desperately lonely, locked and blacked out room to the more normal stuff of life, giving the reader an understanding of the unchained Terry - his childhood, adult formation and his involvement in obtaining release of political hostages in the Middle East.
One of the darkest moments Terry was to face was how, early in his captivity, he was told that he had only five hours to live. He was allowed to write one last letter and then describes how he felt the cold metal of a gun barrel pressed against his head. The incident ended with his captor calmly announcing “not tonight – later”. This uncertainty was to pervade most of Terry’ 1763 days in captivity.
Shafts of light pierce the many dark descriptions, and by them we gain an understanding of Terry’s Christian faith. Describing himself as a middle of the road Anglican, his captivity sharpens his assessment as having a “faith – uncertain, questioning and vulnerable”. He has experienced the whole breadth of Anglicanism, having served with the Church Army espousing its practical ministry to those in great need, at the same time displaying a leaning towards high church, rich in symbolism, liturgy and mystery.
This edition is to mark 25 years from the first publication and boasts a new chapter as Terry brings further reflections after his remarkable incarceration. In it we learn that Terry is now a “Quanglican”, enjoying visits to the Friends Meeting House which he acknowledges contrasts with his high Anglican perspective.
However I was hoping for an insightful analysis of the current Middle East cauldron and ISIL in particular. Beyond stating alarmingly that “we have slipped into what is tantamount to a Third World War,” there is little of substance. I personally found these extra 20 pages disappointing.
Nonetheless for anyone unfamiliar with Terry’s agonising ordeal, this anniversary edition remains a compelling read.
The Revd Martin Poole (retired Baptist Minister having served churches in Penarth, Godalming and Eastleigh)