Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally review – something rotten in Catholicism

The Booker prize winner’s powers remain undimmed, as he shines a light on institutionalised abuse, and denial, in the Catholic church

It is over half a century since a young Thomas Keneally had a breakdown and abandoned his studies at an Australian seminary. His Catholicism, he now says, is more cultural than practising, yet he still knows better than most the mindset of today’s priests.

Crimes of the Father, a characteristically brave and unflinching novel by the Booker and Miles Franklin prize-winner, examines how the overwhelming majority of Catholic clerics, who may struggle with their vow of celibacy but still manage to give something positive to the world, are coping in an institution where a tiny minority have abused children, too often while the church turns a blind eye.

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The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness review – a tale of betrayal by the church

Graham Caveney’s defiant, important memoir details how the Catholic establishment fails abuse victims

Pope Francis has taken great strides in challenging all sorts of entrenched attitudes and prejudices in the Vatican that have given the Catholic church such a bad name of late. Progress has been disappointingly slow, however, on the commission he appointed in 2014 to tackle the appalling scandal of clerical sexual abuse. In March of this year Marie Collins, the last remaining member of the panel who was a survivor of abuse, resigned after a Vatican department failed to comply with the commission’s recommendation that it respond to every correspondent who writes in with allegations that they have been a victim. If the curia is resisting such simple steps, how to have faith that they will tackle the bigger underlying issues?

Reluctance to face up to the consequences of clerical abuse remains hard-wired into the structures ...

Bernard MacLaverty: ‘The story you have just finished is of little help to writing the next one’

Acclaimed Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty has taken 16 years to finish his latest novel. A lot of things just got in the way, he saysIn his jacket endorsement for Bernard MacLaverty’s Midwinter Break, the celebrated American novelist Richard Ford describes the new book as “much-anticipated”. It is a polite way of saying that MacLaverty’s fifth novel has been taken its time in coming. Sixteen years, to be precise, since his last, The Anatomy School, and longer still if you go back to the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s when this Belfast-born but Glasgow-based writer was everywhere, winning plaudits and prizes in equal measure for his short story collections (A Time to Dance, Walking the Dog and The Great Profundo), his novels Cal and Lamb, both of which he adapted as acclaimed films starring respectively Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson, his ...

Eureka by Anthony Quinn review – saucy antics and artistry in swinging London

Art reflects life in this pitch-perfect novel set on a 60s film shoot, the third part of a loosely linked trilogyAnthony Quinn’s two most recent volumes of period fiction, Curtain Call and Freya, were set in the 1930s and the 1950s. In Eureka, he takes another step on his journey through the 20th century to arrive in London in the summer of 1967, swinging to the soundtrack of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper. Some of the same characters from the two previous books return, but for those yet to discover this former film critic, don’t be put off joining the party for part three of this loosely linked and hugely enjoyable trilogy. You require no prior knowledge. Eureka works just as well as a stand-alone. Indeed, you could argue that, such is Quinn’s restless inventiveness as a writer, the three novels hardly overlap at all. Where Curtain Call was a highly ...

Eureka by Anthony Quinn review – saucy antics and artistry in swinging London

Art reflects life in this pitch-perfect novel set on a 60s film shoot, the third part of a loosely linked trilogyAnthony Quinn’s two most recent volumes of period fiction, Curtain Call and Freya, were set in the 1930s and the 1950s. In Eureka, he takes another step on his journey through the 20th century to arrive in London in the summer of 1967, swinging to the soundtrack of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper. Some of the same characters from the two previous books return, but for those yet to discover this former film critic, don’t be put off joining the party for part three of this loosely linked and hugely enjoyable trilogy. You require no prior knowledge. Eureka works just as well as a stand-alone. Indeed, you could argue that, such is Quinn’s restless inventiveness as a writer, the three novels hardly overlap at all. Where Curtain Call was a highly ...

In the Name of the Family review – the power-mad Borgias meet Machiavelli

Sarah Dunant’s latest Renaissance drama has vivid characters, a compelling plot and flawless scholarship to boot

Historical fiction has a habit, when push comes to shove, of discarding facts in pursuit of drama. What distinguishes and elevates to the first order Sarah Dunant’s series of five novels set in Renaissance Italy is that she combines flawless historical scholarship with beguiling storytelling. Her latest takes two names we feel we know too much about already – Lucrezia Borgia and Niccolò Machiavelli – and builds around them a narrative that sings, set at the beginning of the 16th century, where their reputations for, respectively, amoral scheming and ruthless statecraft are refashioned into something both truer to the facts and all the more compelling for it. And as the Borgia family, headed by the dangerous, absurd patriarch Pope Alexander VI, seizes power with the express purpose of making itself great, Dunant is sensitive ...

The Catholics by Roy Hattersley review – the unholy hounding of Britain’s rebel ‘papists’

The Labour peer brings a touch of personal history to this elegant account of an overlooked chapter in British CatholicismOur appetite for neglected parts of our national history has been fed in recent times by any number of biographies, novels and BBC4 documentaries by camera-friendly academics. Few, though, pause for long on the recusants, that small number of Catholics who, amid the post-Reformation religious havoc wreaked by Tudor and Stuart monarchs, refused to be coerced into abandoning their allegiance to the pope. Roy Hattersley, politician turned historian, sets out to correct that sin of omission in his elegantly written, sweeping account of Catholics in these islands from the Reformation to the present day. It’s a tale of high drama and high stakes, by turns horrifying, romantic and ultimately hopeful. Continue reading...