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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Innocence assayed
Clad equally in priestly vestments and an aura of innocence, Frank Darragh suddenly finds the world crowding his faith. Two great bastions of Empire have succumbed to Japanese invasions, and Frank's Sydney stands imperiled alone. As the remaining outpost of Empire, Sydney has become a military crossroads and, if the Japanese haven't invaded, the Yanks have. They are...
Published on 15 Aug. 2005 by Stephen A. Haines

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's was o.k.
This book was so very slow, in fact I gave up having read more than half, I very rarely give up on a book having read so much.
Published on 24 Dec. 2012 by John White


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Innocence assayed, 15 Aug. 2005
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Office of Innocence (Paperback)
Clad equally in priestly vestments and an aura of innocence, Frank Darragh suddenly finds the world crowding his faith. Two great bastions of Empire have succumbed to Japanese invasions, and Frank's Sydney stands imperiled alone. As the remaining outpost of Empire, Sydney has become a military crossroads and, if the Japanese haven't invaded, the Yanks have. They are ubiquitous - on the streets, in pubs, and taking up with Sydney women. One of these women, a "POW widow" encounters Frank, setting off a disturbing chain of events.
War is busy time for young men - committment, training, combat. When that young man happens to be a priest, further emotional conflicts needing resolution arise. Social pressures become intense, with people seeking solace wherever it can be found. Frank's confessional has a queue. He's even more popular than the parish priest - "You'll have to put in for overtime!", Fr. Carolan tells him. There's more involved than Frank's light penances. He feels the need to reach out and bring consolation instead of waiting to be asked. That leads him to cross parish boundaries in support of an AWOL soldier. Crossing that line adds further complexity as Frank's confronted with race issues. Between the temptation of a woman, the startling revelation of child abuse, and a murder, Frank leads a hectic existence.
In one sense, Keneally's plot is relatively transparent. His characters follow predictable paths once they're introduced. Although not a "mystery" writer, he provides a murder and the perpetrator can be only one character. With Keneally, this is hardly a shortcoming. His strength is character development, and whatever your opinion of Frank Darragh, Keneally has portrayed him with his usual finesse. As with all Keneally fiction, this book ends with the resolution of a moral dilemma. The impact of that issue has little to do with the plot - it's wholly in the hands of the protagonist. Keneally's command of language and his ability to reveal inner feelings is unmatched and well demonstrated here. Pick up the book and follow the response of a man's discovery of the world. ... [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Innocence?, 9 Sept. 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Office of Innocence (Paperback)
Father Frank Darragh is an innocent and to the more worldly, and in many ways more wise, Monsignor Carolan, he is something of a trial. Father Frank takes his ministry much more seriously than is usual, and with an openness that is sometimes misconstrued.

We are in Northern coastal Australia in a town close to the barracks of the American and Australian forces who are currently fighting World War II in the Pacific Ocean. Father Frank meets a number of Catholic adherents, including a black soldier caught consorting with white women. Father Frank worries that this man will not survive incarceration, since the racism with which he is regarded seems to promise harsh treatment. Pursuing his own agenda, according to the God who directs him, Father Frank also meets a young Australian woman with a son, whose husband has been captured by the Japanese. Her faith has been tested and Father Frank, recognising that he finds this woman attractive, nevertheless contends with her in conversation and in letters for her immortal soul, despite the advice of Monsignor Carolan to avoid contact with her. At the same time, he comes across the charismatic figure of Fratelli, a Sergeant MP in the American forces stationed in the town.

Each of these characters and a few others germane to the story that will unravel, is introduced authoritatively, as one would expect of the writer who created Schindler's Ark. But Keneally has an impressive repertoire of writing, having been shortlisted for the Booker prize four times. His writing style is deceptively plain, which makes the expressive emotional shock which builds within the events of Father Frank's ministry all the more telling.

Not having a religious bone in my body, I was astonished to find myself greatly moved and provoked by the strength of my attention to the characters of this powerful book. It reminded me a little of the works of Graham Greene, in its outlook of sceptical attachment to the Roman Catholic world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, 22 Sept. 2012
By 
Lydia C. Savage (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Office of Innocence (Paperback)
This is a novel which is like three novels in one, as it is about a young Roman Catholic priest serving in Sydney Australia against the background of World War Two. To describe the third strand would be to spoil it for prospective readers! It is written honestly from the perspective of a critic of the Church(Keneally was once a seminarian) yet it is not offensive to most Christians. The photo in the cover is entirely misleading; this novel is not about married sex ! If like me you only knew Keneally's work from Schindler's Ark, you are in for a delightful surprise as it is very different. Keneally has the power to put you in a place with strong characters. In this he ranks with Steinbeck and Green.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully-judged and compassionate novel, 28 Mar. 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The Australian author, Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 for Schindler’s Ark, later made into the film, Schindler’s List. This novel tells the approximately contemporaneous fictional story of Father Frank Darragh, a hardworking Australian priest, during World War II. The time is set as the Japanese capture Singapore and amidst the concerns that they will sweep on to Australia. The story is given added significance by the author’s own studies for the Catholic priesthood and by its dedication ‘to the memory of Sergeant Tom Keneally, 3rd Australian Squadron, RAAF, North Africa, WWII’.

Almost all the novel is set in the suburbs of Sydney, an area that Kineally describes vividly, as he does its population. It is a time when American forces are very visible and many Australians have friends and family fighting in Europe, killed, missing in action or believed to be captured by the Germans. When we first meet Darragh he is largely untroubled by the greater mysteries of faith and is the most popular confessor in his parish, for which he gets no thanks from his superior. Keneally shows that much of his time is spend praying and trying to become the priest that his mother and his Aunt Madge want him to be.

Three major issues strike at Darragh’s faith, the confession of a young soldier who, perhaps rather improbably, has gone to a party with a female impersonator and then got carried away, his meeting with a married woman, Mrs Heggarty, whose husband has been captured by the Germans in North Africa and who is contemplating adultery so that she and her son can manage financially and emotionally until her husband returns, and, finally, his being asked by an American Military Policeman, Master Sergeant Gene Fratelli, to talk to a young black soldier who has run away after becoming involved with an Australian girl.

Darragh’s responses to the latter two situations enrage his superior, the self-serving Monsignor Carolan, who is ever ready to criticise his behavior and commitment. Believing that he needs to clarify his position, Darragh unwisely visits Mrs Heggarty and, after talking with her, becomes even more concerned about what she is planning.

When a crime is committed, the priest finds himself responsible for negative reports in the anti-Catholic press and his rather naïve attempts to act according to his conscience result in his being sent on a retreat. There, perhaps for the first time, he meets truly spiritual people. When he arrives back in Sydney his attempt to comply with his superior’s demands are blown out of the water by what he learns in another confession.

Perhaps Kineally has created just one too many pitfalls for Darragh to stumble into, but he is a believable character as, indeed, is everyone we meet in this novel. The need to balance the political, social, financial, spiritual and pastoral demands of the church are clearly set out as are the tensions, at all levels, between the Australian and American military and the Australian civilians. The increasing concern of a Japanese invasion is very well described, especially in a scene where, following the bombing of Darwin, very young children are shown what to do in case of an aerial attack [the basic equipment to withstand such a bombardment was ‘two tennis ball halves to place over the ears, a wooden wedge to put between the teeth, a whistle to blow beneath the rubble, a tin container of burn salve and a safety-pinned roll of lint bandage’.] The casual racism against black soldiers within the American military was also graphically presented.

The author’s taut narrative manages to pull the various strands of the novel together in an unforced manner and a coda shows us how Darragh responds to the pressures on his belief. Occasionally, the author’s prose threatens to run away [‘His arms and legs, ready to fight if needed, felt heavy with alarmed blood’], but the reader is left without any doubt that, for the priest, decision making and morality within the confessional is much more straightforward than outside in the real world. Durragh wonders ‘was Catholicism and its orthodoxy sometimes better designed for the timid, or twitching souls who came too often to confession, for the scrupulous so hungry for absolution at every hour?’

An thoughtful novel about a compassionate man in a dark and violent world.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's was o.k., 24 Dec. 2012
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This book was so very slow, in fact I gave up having read more than half, I very rarely give up on a book having read so much.
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The Office of Innocence
The Office of Innocence by Thomas Keneally (Paperback - 28 April 2003)
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