Friday 6 March 2015

Review ~ New Habits by Eleanor Stewart.

Title: New Habits.
Author: Eleanor Stewart.
Publisher: Lion Hudson.
Genre: Memoir.
Publication Date: February 20, 2015.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

She left the convent because of her deep desire to start a family. Then she was told she couldn’t have children. What would Sister Eleanor do next?

Kicking the Habit (published in June 2013) told the story of Eleanor Stewart’s decision at the age of 18 to become a nun, and her subsequent training and work as a nurse and midwife in 1960s Liverpool. It was during her time working at the hospital that Eleanor began to question her calling as a nun – torn between her love of the religious life and the hectic pace of the inner city hospital world, as well as her desire to become a mother herself. At the end of Kicking the Habit, after nearly 8 years as a nun, Eleanor left the convent to start a new life.

In New Habits, Eleanor finds herself in the middle of the swinging Sixties – and joins in with gusto! Her hospital career continues with the usual drama and excitement while, outside of work, boyfriends, parties and mini skirts take the place of silence and restraint. But amidst the carefree lifestyle, there are difficult times: Eleanor has a troubled relationship with her ‘needy’ mother and also struggles with her growing estrangement from her faith.

When she finally falls in love and wants to start a family, she receives the devastating news that she is infertile. With the support of her husband, she begins the battle for adoption. Will Eleanor’s dream of a happy family, which led her to leave the convent, ever come true?

~ Kicking the Habit is on sale here ~

One thing I love about blogging is the opportunity to read books you might not normally choose to pick up. New Habits is completely different to anything I’ve read before – it’s the memoir of Eleanor Stewart, a nun whose hope to start a family sees her leave the convent, only to learn she can’t have children. I was intrigued by the synopsis and looking forward to reading something sure to be unlike anything else I’ve read. New Habits is very compelling and the author’s way with words is easy to read. It’s an honest and interesting read.

Eleanor was a nun for eight years and so the beginning of this book is fascinating, seeing her learn about how different society is. Her attempts to become accustomed to her new lifestyle were amusing and I loved reading about her being educated on the kind of life she’d missed out on. I was interested by the way people would react when they learnt she had been a nun and there were quite a few different responses. There was the woman on the train, who thought it was the most sensational thing she’d ever heard. Eleanor’s new friends Di and Dee’s reaction made me smile the most – how they were just relieved her lack of knowledge on life wasn’t because she’d been in prison. Moments in this book such as Eleanor trying alcohol and buying a whole new wardrobe were told with humour and though New Habits is predominantly an interesting story, it’s entertaining too and I found myself giggling quite a bit at some of the situations Eleanor found herself in. One particular incident with fondant fancies stands out in my mind after finishing the book.

That’s not to say that Eleanor’s story isn’t also sad at times too. Her life as a midwife was bound to lead to some upsetting moments and they’re bravely told here, quite honest and raw and heartbreaking at times, but real and strong all the same. Some of Eleanor’s experiences, through her own personal life too, are emotional to read and I found myself with a lot of respect for the way she tackled her life and some of the obstacles she faced, which would have been unbearable for many people to come through and then write about. New Habits is a moving story, told in a voice which so simply drew me in and didn’t let me go until I could see how life would work out for Eleanor and her hopes for a family. It’s the kind of book that makes trying something new worthwhile.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK


  1. This sounds so different.

    1. Very different! Interesting though. I've been sent the first book to read too.


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