"In the suburbs of Sydney in 1952, few might have predicted international renown for the red-haired teenager sporting a cowlick (held in place with a guey, white concoction called Fix-a-Flex) and a breast pocket mishapen by a fat volume of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems.
"At sixteen, Tom Keneally had visions of following in his hero's footsteps as a poet, though he he thought he might draw the line at emulating his other hero Chatterton's early suicide. He had visions, too, of triumphing on the running track or rugby field, though he recognised that his blind friend Matt Tierney had greater natural athleticism. And then he had visions of winning the heart of the beautiful but aloof Bernadette Curran. The one role he did not see himself playing was priest, despite the encouragement of the Brothers at his Catholic school. Until the momentous day when Bernadette announced her intention of becoming a nun."In this vivacious, funny and poignant memoir, Keneally conjures up his youthful self at a pivotal period in hs life and draws an affectionate portrait of the people who inspired and influenced im. It provides an intriguing insight into the future novelist and Booker Prize-wining author of Schindler's Ark, and an evocation of adolescence which will resonate with all those who recall their own transition from childhood to adulthood."
"Keneally's prose is compact, stinging, and near-perfect, moving you back and forward into action majestically ... one of the finest moral imaginations in literature." - Kirkus Reviews
Born in Sydney in the southern hemisphere's spring of 1935, after Mussolini had in another unimaginable continent invaded Ethiopia, and while my parents were down from the country town of Kempsey trying their luck in bad economic times, I had been named Michael Thomas by my mother. But my father incorrectly registered me under the name Thomas Michael. At home and in the world my mother and father called me Michael. It suited my nature to have an untouched and unsuspected legal first name in reserve, though two-named possibilities did not tease me at that stage nor need delay us here. For this is not an exhaustive tale of boyhood but of the one reckless, sweet, divinely hectic and subtly hormonal year. That is, in my case, 1952. It seems to outweigh the other years, to be the most succulent and the most dangerous. Its consequences, lightly embarked on, have not to this day ceased to tease, govern and turn me on.
From the Minerva paperback edition, 1995.
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Last modified: March 26, 2001.