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Office of Innocence: A Novel (Keneally, Thomas) Hardcover – March 18, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Keneally, Thomas
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385507631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385507639
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,942,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Keneally steers a young, na‹ve Australian priest through a series of complex moral choices in his latest novel, which takes place early in WWII with the Japanese forces steadily advancing southward. The insular existence of Catholic cleric Frank Darragh is disturbed when he is approached by a beautiful married woman named Kate Heggarty, whose husband has been captured by the Germans in North Africa. Darragh tries to comfort her, but Heggarty retains her combative stance toward traditional Catholicism as she drifts toward infidelity as a possible means of solace. In spite of his halfhearted efforts to deny her charms, Darragh's growing infatuation becomes an issue when Heggarty is suddenly murdered and the local detectives try to implicate him. Darragh also faces trouble from his conservative monsignor, who sends the priest away on retreat for involving the parish in the investigation. Despite the admonitions of his superior, Darragh puts considerable effort into trying to clarify his role in Heggarty's death, until a U.S. soldier from a nearby American base provides a stunning and compromising revelation regarding the killer's identity. Keneally portrays his protagonist's innocence with a keen but subtle sense of irony, and the surprising plot twists help him steer clear of the usual clich‚s afflicting novels about compromised clerics. But the true excellence of the book lies in the author's ability to blend his depiction of a seaside village in crisis as the Japanese threaten to invade with the nuances of morality and faith that constantly keep Darragh at odds with himself. The novel lacks the weight of Schindler's List or Keneally's narrative history The Great Shame, but it is a sterling effort on a smaller scale.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The prolific Australian author who brought us Schindler's List offers a profound and moving novel about one young priest's crisis of faith in Sydney during World War II. Father Frank Darragh already feels conflicted about being out of the fighting when his regular duties as a soft-hearted confessor at St. Margaret's begin to put him in touch with war widows and American GIs. He is especially intrigued by Kate Heggarty, who seeks spiritual guidance when she's tempted to cheat on her P.O.W. husband. The monsignor objects to Father Frank's becoming so involved in her case, which explodes in the young priest's face when Kate turns up strangled. Father Frank's struggles to deal with the violent crime (and accusations that he caused Kate's death), while confronting the church hierarchy and his own shattered faith, fully reveal his humanity. A wonderful but never easy novel.
Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
Very sensitive story of a priest in turmoil.
sarah
I actually did not like him even though he was a good-hearted sort.
Rick Mitchell
All the plot elements all come together very well.
Eugenia Renskoff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on July 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Father Frank Darragh is a recent, 1941 product of an Australian Catholic seminary, and is now a curate at a city parish. Author Keneally, a former seminarian himself, totally understands the mind of the young, devout parish priest. Father Darragh has assimilated all of the counseling techniques taught at the seminary, and now tries them out in real life. Alas he has no real understanding of human psychology. When people are mired in the complex, often sordid, problems of life our good priest offers them pious platitudes that provide no help.
One thing that the seminary did not prepare him for was the sexual stirrings that begin to intrude when he tries to provide some of his canned counseling to an attractive young mother whose husband is a Japanese prisoner of war. After she rejects his advice, Father Darragh, tries to find ways to see her again, telling himself that he just wants to help her resolve her problems. I guess they didn't teach much about psychological (or physical) denial in the seminary.
He does meet with her again, and the visit is quite innocuous, but shortly thereafter the young woman is murdered. Our hero continues to be peripherally involved in the case, which results in increased suspicion by the police, and increased annoyance by his pastor. We follow the stumblings of Father Frank as he sniffs along the murder trail, and gets involved in some other difficulties which even get him beaten up by some tough guys.
Keneally is a fine writer, having a great sense of style and wit. I found this to be a comfortable, entertaining tale that was especially appealing to me as I also spent some time in the seminary a century or so ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on March 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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, there's a murder and the "perp" 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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Martz on March 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Had I known how little space this novel would give to evoking the ambience of wartime Australia, I wouldn't have bought it -- but if I hadn't, I would have missed a haunting story. Keneally is a Booker Prize-winner who trained for the Catholic priesthood. So this account of a young priest's struggle to apply the pure theory of his creed to world in which in his flock's ordinary imperfections have become compounded by the societal stresses of a threatened Japanese invasion has the constant ring of authenticity. As a Protestant, I don't share lots of Father Darragh's beliefs, but Keneally paints him so vividly and sympathetically that his trials become a story of the timeless human struggle to reconcile "what is" with "what should be" that transcends matters of doctrine.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on June 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This novel is about a young priest in Australia at the beginning of WWII when Australia was worried about Japanese invasion and dealing with the invasion of American soldiers. The young man gets involved (as a priest only) with a woman who eventually is murdered. The confessional and the problems it brings to the priest are central to the plot.
I did not find the priest sympathetic. I actually did not like him even though he was a good-hearted sort. He came off as whiny and cold somehow. The position of the monsignor and church higher-ups is virtually indecipherable. I could not tell if Mr. Kenneally thought them wise or heartless.
There is a lot of tension brought by what the proper role of a priest should be. I found that part of the book interesting. However, the plot line was predictable and, as noted, the characters did not add much to the book. Even the "bad guy" was predictable, although the last portion of the book when the bad guy is identified is the best part. Unfortunately, you have to trod through a few hundred pages of drudgery to get there.
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