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Forgiveness by Marina Cantacuzino

Recommended by: Emma Almond - Special Sales Executive


“Forgiveness has the power to change the narrative, move the story along, and turn the page when nothing else can. When the original perpetrators are long dead, or when satisfactory justice is no longer possible, then forgiveness, mercy and pardoning may be the only strategy we have to help us reconcile with our past pain and prevent old wounds and historical resentments from festering down the generations.”


It’s always seemed so strange to me that we use one word in an attempt to define such a complicated concept as forgiveness. How can we boil so much down to the same thing, when it encompasses so many varied scenarios and emotions? Perhaps because of this, my interest was immediately caught by this book. I was intrigued to learn more about how and why we come to forgive, and Marina Cantacuzino’s exploration of the term in all its diversity did not disappoint. Forgiveness is all at once entertaining, enlightening, and hopeful.


In recounting conversations over two decades, Marina expertly weaves us through the stories she’s learned from people around the world who have encountered, and often battled with, forgiveness. Tying together these captivating accounts with sharp insight, she examines how we find forgiveness, and the ways it can become an empowering form of release and control. From self-forgiveness to a collective societal forgiveness, a feud amongst friends to forgiving the murderer of your child, Marina provides truly necessary nuance to the conversation of forgiving and its place in the world today.


I do appreciate that the book looks only to explore forgiveness, rather than to preach it. As well as investigating where forgiveness has benefitted the individual, it also sheds a necessary light on many who forgive before they’re ready, or where it’s dangerous to do so. In the right conditions however, forgiveness ultimately can act as powerful tool which paves the way to finding acceptance and peace.


Forgiveness is such a force for good, and every chapter felt more important than the last. Brimming with empathy and experience, this was a fascinating read!


An Exploration

Using real-life stories, Forgiveness explores the messy, complex and gripping subject of forgiveness.

'Cantacuzino's gift for empathy shines through her conversations... She tackles her complex [message] with clear prose and an open heart... This nuance feels like a cool breeze in a heatwave. If there is a message here, it's to listen more, think more and preach less'
Sunday Times

‘This is an utterly memorable book – beautifully written, fascinating in its insights, and extraordinarily moving. We all need to forgive, and this book, through its recounting of the stories of people who have something really significant to forgive, will be an inspiration to help us reach a state of forgiveness. This is a book that will stay with the reader for a very long time
Alexander McCall Smith

I forgive you.

Three simple words behind which sits an intriguing and complex concept. These words can be used to absolve a meaningless squabble, or said to someone who has caused you great harm. They can liberate you from guilt, or consciously place blame on your shoulders.

Forgiveness can often be perceived as saccharine and overtly religious, something just for the spiritually superior or mentally strong. But really it is a gritty, risky concept that is so often relevant to our ordinary everyday lives. Forgiveness explores the subject from every angle, coming from a place of enquiry rather than persuasion, presenting it as an offering, never a prescription.

Marina Cantacuzino seeks to investigate, unpick and debate the limits and possibilities of forgiveness – in our relationships, for our physical and mental wellbeing, how it plays out in international politics and within the criminal justice system, and where it intersects with religious faith. Cantacuzino speaks to people across the globe who have considered forgiveness in different forms and circumstances. She talks to a survivor of Auschwitz; to someone who accidentally killed a friend; to people who have lost loved ones in acts of violence; to a former combatant in The Troubles as well as to the daughter of someone he murdered.

Through these real stories, expert opinion and the author’s experience from two decades working in this field, the reader gets to better understand what forgiveness is and what it most definitely isn’t, how it can be an important element in breaking the cycle of suffering, and ultimately how it might help transform fractured relationships and mend broken hearts.