A timely, courageous and powerful novel about faith, the church, conscience and celibacy.
Father Frank Docherty has had his run-ins with the church authorities: in the early 1970s, he was expelled from the Sydney archdiocese for preaching against the Vietnam War and has lived in Canada as a monk ever since.
Twenty-five years later, back in Australia to give a lecture about celibacy and paedophile priests, he comes across an ex-nun who claims to have been abused by a now eminent cleric. If Docherty is to help her, he will be up against an institution bent on avoiding scandal. What is more, the accused man's sister is the woman Docherty nearly broke his vows for long ago.
This searing, impassioned novel captures the Catholic Church at a pivotal moment: when it tried to silence its victims, wreaking lasting damage not only on innocents but on itself.
Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-one 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, and Shame and the Captives. 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.
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
Characteristically brave and unflinching . . .Keneally's theme is sadly familiar, but in the hands of a world-renowned writer - still, on this evidence, at the height of his powers, and with a long record of shining a light on human frailty and injustice - Crimes of the Father goes way beyond the familiar. It questions what makes a good priest and, therefore, what makes a bad one. And that, Keneally concludes, isn't only to do with individual make-up, circumstances or choices, but also down to institutional Catholicism and "emotional dwarfism" . — Peter Stanford, Observer
A compelling novel . . . One of the strengths of the novel is Keneally's depiction of the abuser. A chilling portrait is drawn of a man who despises his own actions . . . but who nevertheless seems incapable of stopping. The scenes between him and Docherty, who has uncovered the truth, are compulsive . . . 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
The divine alchemy of Thomas Keneally is to take something real and make it truer still . . .
Docherty is a powerful creation . . . Keneally explores the human condition almost forensically, though with an uplifting charity . . . he is extraordinarily perceptive on the pain of both the victims and those in the Church who have watched these scandals unfold with horror . . . the novel points to the pain of those who trusted and who were abused, those who gave faith and were rewarded in the coin of unspeakable criminality. It also offers the merest glint of optimism.
— Hugh MacDonald, The Herald
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
Keneally is a superb writer who tackles a complex subject calmly but incisively, creating a compelling read. — Choice
Crimes of the Father has something of the feel of John Grisham's courtroom thrillers . . . It is not an easy read, but nor should it be . . . 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