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Celebrating 50 years of Keneally's writing

Books & Poetry

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Thomas Keneally is one of Australia’s most recognised and popular authors, probably best-known for writing Schindler’s Ark, which was later turned into the Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List. Now, to mark the novelist’s half-century as a writer, Random House has released an anniversary edition of his debut novel, The Place at Whitton.

This breakthrough book is a great but in some ways dated read. Keneally draws on his time in a seminary to build a convincing, almost mystical world with judiciously chosen details. His characters are memorable because their dilemmas are lucidly drawn and utterly believable.

There’s a murderer loose in the closed society of Whitton’s monastery.  Dr Stenner, Whitton’s president, suspects one of his priests, but still believes the monastery can survive the scandal.

After another brutal killing, thoughts turn to devil worship. Then there appears a strange woman seeking a deranged priest who can be turned to the purposes of evil.

The plot in this psychological murder mystery isn’t particularly complicated, but the author peoples his tale with distinctive characters, each with a latent agenda and thoroughly interesting. The revelations about the cloistered lifestyle, and the people within it, are engrossing and compelling as The Place at Whitton explores both honourable and dishonourable deeds.

Keneally skilfully accompanies solid storytelling with a wonderful level of detail that brings his sheltered world to life. The result is a most satisfying tale for readers already familiar with his work; for others, it is an excellent introduction to the delight of the novels of this Booker and Miles Franklin award-winning writer.

The Place at Whitton, by Tom Keneally, is published by Random House, $29.99.

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