Crimes of the Father
By Thomas Keneally
A timely, courageous and powerful novel about faith, the church, conscience and celibacy.
Thomas Keneally pulls no punches in this powerful novel about the Catholic Church's attempts to cover up cases of child abuse, and a priest who decides to help its innocent victims' fight to be heard.
Expelled from the archdiocese of Sydney as a young priest for his outspoken views on the Vietnam War, Father Frank Docherty returns to Australia in 1996 to speak at a conference on paedophilia within the Catholic Church. He had hoped to spend time with his mother and old friends. Instead, he finds himself caught up in the cases of two people who claim to have been sexually abused by an eminent Sydney cleric - one the son of Docherty's former parishioner, the other a former nun. And the cleric in question is brother to the woman Docherty fell in love with many years before. If the accusations are true, the consequences for many will be devastating, but Docherty has to follow his conscience.
In this riveting, profoundly thoughtful novel, Thomas Keneally draws on his own experience as an ex-seminarian to bring alive matters of faith, celibacy, perversion and marriage. Portraying the Catholic Church at a pivotal moment, he shows that its prevarications and cover-ups wreaked terrible damage not only on innocents but on itself, with toxic repercussions to this day.
Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty novels since. They include Schindler's Ark, which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was subsequently made into the film Schindler's List, and The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates and Gossip From The Forest, each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His most recent novels are The Daughters Of Mars, which was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize in 2013, Shame and the Captives and Napoleon's Last Island. He has also written several works of non-fiction, including his memoir Homebush Boy, Searching for Schindler and Australians. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney.
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- Publication date:
15 Jun 2017
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The force and resonance of the issue in question - together with Keneally's wise and thoughtful treatment of it - make for another hugely satisfying read from one of the world's great writers. — James Walton, Spectator
A provocative and powerful study of abusers and the abused. It captures the honourable priests determined to expose the outrage and the church hierarchy equally determined to discredit them. Most poignantly, it depicts ordinary Catholics caught in the crossfire . . . The writing is most powerful when it conveys the raw pain of the victims and the twisted psyches of their abusers . . . Above all, Keneally exposes the cynical casuistry of a church determined to fight critics down to "its last lawyer", an institution that puts its survival above its soul. — Michael Arditti, Guardian
[A] compelling novel . . . Keneally is one of the great chroniclers of his country's history . . . Here he recognises the injustices done to his fellow countrymen and women by an uncaring establishment . . . to the growing body of work devoted to this most dispiriting of subject, Crimes of the Father is a welcome addition, not least for the dignity that Keneally lends to the good priest's voice as well as to those of the victims of abuse. — John Boyne, Irish Times
A convincing argument for the power of fiction to get under the skin of a great contemporary controversy. — James Marriott, The Times
Pulsing with rage at ecclesiastical complacency, it's a deeply discomfiting (but never prurient) quest for redress, narrated with clarity and urgency. — Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail
Crimes of the Father has something of the feel of John Grisham's courtroom thrillers . . . it is a worthwhile attempt to explore how a devoted priest with a clear understanding of humanity can if not atone for, then at least fully address, the crimes of others. — Matt Thorne, Catholic Herald
Keneally's fiction has returned again and again to the themes of thwarted justice and human opportunism. Crimes of the Father is the work of a richly experienced and compassionate writer. It has an honest understanding of a deeply wounded culture. — Sydney Morning Herald
It turns Catholicism from a matter of interest to insiders and the curious to a febrile topic for the general public . . . Apart from the fictional pleasures of the chase, the novel provides a first-rate summary of the thinking and manoeuvres of all parties caught up in the crisis. — Australian
Nuanced and relevant . . . an excellent example of fiction's capacity to pull apart and explore polarising contemporary problems. — BMA Magazine, Canberra