I’ve finished another book on my personal challenge list, Three Cheers for the Paraclete by Thomas Keneally. At 240 pages, this is shorter than many of the list-books I’ve read thus far — although I’ve added quite a few, of varying lengths, to my library since starting this quest.
Published in 1968, the book received the Miles Franklin Award, an annually awarded literary prize for fiction tied to Australia (which Cloudstreet won in 1992).
I’ll admit it, I was a little skeptical when I saw this was written by an Australian. I had not enjoyed any of the few I’d read, nor the films I’d seen. I was bolstered by the back cover endorsement by Graham Greene, and I was pleasantly surprised by this work.
The main character is James Maitland, a Catholic priest who is just finishing his dissertation, while in his first year of teaching (history) at a seminary, I guess. At first he’s isolated in this new community, and this sense is heightened by an early run-in with the school’s monsignor.
It seems Maitland is struggling to find serenity in the absolute credos that offer solace for his elders. And yet, Maitland does act on his convictions, faithfully serving others, acting on the laws of God, heedless of the difficulty such actions will surely bring him.
I quite enjoyed this book. It’s a fascinating story.
It was quite interesting to me the role physical place plays in Three Cheers for the Paraclete. The actual setting of the book is never mentioned. At the beginning I was quite confused as I tried to determine where it was set, particularly as recognizable places are mentioned, mainly European places. But at about the halfway point, I settled that it must be set in Australia. More concretely, the book is set in St. Peter’s House of Studies, in the characters.
Keneally won the Booker prize for his 1982 book, Schindler’s Ark, later retitled Schindler’s List, the basis for the essential film.