MaryG2E's Reviews > Crimes of the Father

Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally
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it was amazing
bookshelves: z2017-alphabetical, greatly-appreciated

This is an important book which tackles a serious social problem, and does it with great distinction. It is also very timely for Australians, as the latest findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are released to the community (February 2017).

As a person brought up completely immersed in the Catholic faith, I could read this book with a good depth of background knowledge, particularly about the power of priests in the daily lives of Catholics. Tom Keneally, who is one of this country's most distinguished authors, has additional background knowledge through his experiences of studying for the priesthood during his youth. His writing in this novel is absolutely sure-footed, as he knows the context and views the events with insight and clarity.

I was deeply affected by this novel on a personal level, so I don't want to go into a detailed review of its content. I admired the approach taken by Keneally, to go back a few decades in our recent history, to look at the emergence of consciousness about this appalling abuse by clergy. He uses a light hand throughout, offering several points of view. Though he describes episodes of abuse, he does not dwell unnecessarily on the ghastly details. Rather, he focuses on the impact on the lives of the victims of clerical sexual abuse. He also draws interesting characterisations of the priests who perpetrated the abuse on children, which helped me to understand how the viciousness of their actions could be rationalised and excused away.

Most importantly, he tackles the thorny issue of the Catholic Church's response to abuse, and takes them to task for their lies, deceit and attempts to silence victims. For me this was the most significant impact of the novel. I think he absolutely nails the attitude of the clerical hierarchy, with its overwhelming attitude of power and privilege, of being beyond criticism.

Although the subject matter is grim at times, and may disturb some readers, I think the novel format is an excellent way to tease out some of the issues and expose some of the lies perpetrated by the Catholic administration. Keneally has the writing skills to inject warmth and humour into the book at various points, to counterbalance the awful stuff. His main character, Father Frank Docherty, is an inspiration - I wish he were a real person!

I thank Tom Keneally for his brilliant writing and incisive analysis of this controversial topic.
5★s

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Reading Progress

December 19, 2016 – Shelved
December 19, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
January 18, 2017 – Started Reading
January 28, 2017 – Shelved as: z2017-alphabetical
January 28, 2017 – Shelved as: greatly-appreciated
January 29, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Excellent review Mary :)


message 2: by Amanda - (new)

Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews Wow - great review Mary :-)


MaryG2E Brenda wrote: "Excellent review Mary :)"

Thanks Brenda.


MaryG2E Amanda - wrote: "Wow - great review Mary :-)"

Thanks Amanda.


message 5: by Eileen (new) - added it

Eileen A plot line around this topic is central to two novels high on my favorites list - Faith, by Jennifer Haigh, and The History of Loneliness, by John Boyne. Both are highly readable and poignant.


PattyMacDotComma Wonderful review, Mary, even better because of how you came to the subject yourself. It must be a hard story for Keneally to tell, too, so how nice that his Father Frank was such a lovely guy. It's just a pity that there has been so much corruption and bullying in the system for so many centuries that it must be hard to keep the good people who really want to help others.


message 7: by Dave (new)

Dave O'Donnell History of Lonlieness. Marvelous novel


message 8: by Julier (new) - added it

Julier Thank you for your insightful review. It helps me revaluate the book since I wasn't too impressed when I read it.


Chris Wow, that’s a great review! I’m halfway through the book. I was born and raised Roman Catholic and went to a strict Catholic grade school; I can absolutely relate to so much of what is written in this book. Let’s see what the second half reveals.


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