Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
on 15 August 2005
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]