“John Boyne has plunged into the dark and troubled history of the Catholic Church in our time and come up with a novel to treasure. Unflinching, moving and true.”



A hard-hitting novel about the Irish Catholic Church, which, much like Boyne’s previous works lingers with the reader beyond the last page. Boyne, as usual, deftly, raises endless moral questions that draw the reader into the dilemma faced by the characters. Moral questions, which, contingent upon circumstance and the vagaries of human existence lead to much soul-searching and reflection.

Though Odran Yates is forced into priesthood by his Mam, he enters the seminary with blind dedication to the Church and his faith. Idealistic and well-meaning, he serves it well for twenty some years through his work at a rugby school where he is held in high regard, cloistered in the library which he runs with great pride.

When he is unexpectedly transferred to a parish, a position previously held by his old friend Tom Cardle, Yates finds himself confronted with unconscionable goings-on in the Church. Unable to face up to the truth, partly out of naiveté and partly out of denial, Yates cannot reconcile his memories of the young Cardle–who “gave off an air of utter despair” in the seminary and to whom Yates was drawn because he too feared loneliness–with the unspeakable acts he is accused of. Ostensibly blameless, Yates realises that the rampant corruption not only sours his life but taints his vocation.

Boyne’s choice and handling of his narrator is absolutely brilliant. As is his compelling piecemeal revelation of Yates’ story. In spite of his scepticism, and his torpor, Yates remained, at least for me, a likeable righteous character, with whom one could identify through stages of uncertainty, disbelief, anger, and anguish.


Reviewed by:

D K Haffar

Added 21st April 2017