The Life Inside

Andy West

09 February 2023
352 pages


An Irish Times and The i Book of 2022
'Tense and intimate . . . an education'
- Geoff Dyer
'Enriching, sobering and at times heartrending. A wonder' - Sir Lenny Henry
'Authentic, fascinating and deeply moving' - Terry Waite

Can someone in prison be more free than someone outside? Would we ever be good if we never felt shame? What makes a person worthy of forgiveness?

Andy West teaches philosophy in prisons. Every day he has conversations with people inside about their lives, discusses their ideas and feelings, and listens as they explore new ways to think about their situation.

When Andy steps into a prison, he also confronts his inherited shame: his father, uncle and brother all spent time behind bars. While Andy has built a different life for himself, he still fears that their fate will also be his. As he discusses pressing questions of truth, identity and hope with his students, he searches for his own form of freedom too.

Moving, sympathetic, wise and frequently funny, The Life Inside is an elegantly written and unforgettable memoir. Through a blend of storytelling and gentle philosophical questioning, it offers a new insight into our stretched justice system, our failing prisons and the complex lives being lived inside.

'Inspiring' - The Observer
'Strives with humour and compassion to understand the phenomenon of prison' - Sydney Review of Books
'Expands both heart and mind' - Ciaran Thapar
'A fascinating and enlightening journey . . . A legitimate page-turner' - 3AM

Andy West’s tense and intimate book is an education . . . The Life Inside deserves the widest possible readership.
By turns enriching, sobering and at times, heartrending. A tale centering on our inner critic or executioner and how to stifle its constant sniping. A wonder.
An authentic, fascinating and deeply moving story about the different ways people search for freedom.