Reviews and synopsis

Mother Teresa Beyond the Image

Mother Teresa Beyond the Image


Mother Teresa of Calcutta few figures in the twentieth century have received such adulation. This diminutive nun of Albanian descent was frequently cited as the living embodiment of Christian kindness, recipient of numerous humanitarian awards including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, she was hailed as a living saint and commanded unrivalled international attention, yet the respect she received was not unanimous and in the last decade of her life, serious measured criticisms have been directed at this modern icon who seemed beyond reproach. A television documentary dubbed her Hell’s Angel and accused her of hypocrisy and administering dubious medical treatment and blindly objecting to all forms of family planning.

In this riveting book much more than a biography and recognised by the Vatican itself as offering the basis for serious questioning of the nuns’s suitability for sainthood Anne Sebba provides the first unbiased and balanced account of Mother Teresa’s life and work. It is the first to put her in social historical and geographic context and the first to assess the future for the four thousand nuns in her worldwide order.

The first half of the book follows the life of young Agnes Bjoaxhiu from her childhood in Serbian dominated Skopje to her arrival in India during the British Raj. We see her decision to join the religious life and witness her call from God to start out on her own and help the poor of Calcutta. Although little had previously been known, Anne Sebba, with astonishingly
wide-ranging research, is able to throw light on Mother Teresa’s formative years. In the second half of the book she examines various issues arising from Mother Teresa’s work. She considers Mother Teresa’s attitude towards abortion and rape, her association with dictators such as the Duvaliers in Haiti and financier Robert Maxwell in the UK, her medical negligence and her ethics. Even her theology is considered outdated by many. Anne Sebba spoke to hundreds of individuals and organisations in her quest to examine the legend that surrounds Mother Teresa both during and after her lifetime.

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