Book Review: Taken On Trust by Terry Waite

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Updated June 08, 2017
Book Review: Taken On Trust by Terry Waite

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Terry Waite's personal account of his harrowing experiences as a hostage in Beirut. This book gives a fascinating insight into human life on the edge - the things people are willing to do to each other, and what it feels like to be treated in that way. Terry's endurance in the face of unimaginable suffering and long days spent in solitary confinement makes for a compelling tale.

This new edition includes an updated foreword and new final chapter conveying just a few of the many and varied experiences that came Terry's way post-release, and conveying his passionate engagement in Middle East issues since his release 25 years ago, an issue of just as much relevance today as ever.

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Taken On Trust
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Over 30 years ago, in 1987, Terry Waite was taken as a hostage in Beirut when on a mission to negotiate release of a number of hostages already held there. Waite was held for 5 years with 4 of those spent in solitary confinement. This book tells the astonishing story of the time in captivity, but also his life up to that point. This book is the 25th Anniversary edition of "Taken on Trust" with an extra chapter added covering some new thoughts from Terry and the years since release.

I was just a kid when this was all going on, I remember the name Terry Waite from the news, I know that he was a hostage and was held in Beirut for 5 years and I remember the news of his release. He was taken captive when I was a child and released when I was in my early teens, needless to say that this didn't feature terribly heavily as a concern or interest in my life. I know that I have seen the original print version of this book available in charity shops and my inclination would probably to walk past it. However because I have been sent it for review from the publishers at Hodder Faith I have an obligation to read the book - or at least try!

What I found in these pages is not exactly what I was expecting. I knew there would be time spent talking about his ordeal at the hands of his captors - that's what most people would be interested in. How did it happen in the first place? Why was he taken hostage? How did they treat him? Much of this has been spoken of in television interviews at the time and as time has passed at meetings up and down the country as Terry continues to speak publicly about his ordeal and is still in high demand as a guest and speaker at special functions. This is an autobiography with a difference, it's something that kept the man alive and stable at a time when his world came crashing down.

The whole story is framed from the position of his various places of captivity. Being taken prisoner, being kept isolated and not knowing if you would be kept alive Terry early on resolved to keep himself mentally strong - something that is demonstrated time and time again with things that would have broken a lesser man. Part of this is he decided to write, in his head because he wasn't allow paper or pen, his autobiography. This allowed him to dip into moments from his past and relive them. It is in this way that the story of the events are shown to the reader. You can follow the twin narrative of the hostage conditions and then step with Terry into the memories of his life, happier times and busy times. From his earliest memories, through to memories of his time in Uganda, before the progression of his career that saw him travelling internationally with different agencies and then finally in position in Lambeth Palace as a senior aide to Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie.

There is a joy to seeing the mental capacity that Terry was able to develop, recalling journeys vividly in his mind from one place to another and relive them to remove himself from the appalling conditions that he was kept in for much of the time. At the same time as this happens there is also the insecurity that laces this book, almost the feeling that he is not a good enough Christian, those mental and spiritual times of questioning himself, his faith and his security. His knowledge of the Bible sees him through some situations, but he still worries that he has not engaged with it enough. This is honest and raw and echoes what many Christians may feel, so there is an empathy with this man who has walked a path that many of us would not be able to.

The additional chapter that has been added for this edition gives an insight into the many areas that Terry has been active in over the last few years. Content to not be so much in the public eye, and yet incredibly active in different roles working with Y-Care, Hostage UK, and Emmaus charity for the homeless. There is also an insight into his spirituality as a believer he now calls himself a Quakican, trying to live with both Anglican and Quaker traditions.

As I mentioned, this is a book I would walk past in a charity shop, it wouldn't interest me on a personal level. However having read this autobiography I found it incredibly well written, honest and importantly full of love. There is a sense of forgiveness for his captors, or at least those guarding him, they are just following orders. There are small moments of kindness shown from them which to us reading are nothing, but were totally overwhelming and amazing for Terry in his position. I am a richer man for having read this book and in the end I can say that I have enjoyed it.

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