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ABOUT THE STORY
THIS IS A WORK OF HISTORICAL FICTION
An attractive Irish immigrant, Kathleen Delaney is swept up in her new Australian surroundings after leaving her homeland in 1913. In her loneliness and naivety she is drawn to a friendship with well meaning Father Jim Patterson.
Kathleen becomes his fascination that turns to passion, and subsequent obsession. He is compromised by Kathleen’s hot-headed, idealist brother and through a series of bizarre circumstances, he becomes involved in subversive deeds that could change the nation’s history.
A conspiracy is uncovered that has the potential to dramatically influence the government’s decision at a critical time in Australia during the First World War.
The scene is set: for and against Conscription, the conflicting demands of a nation in conflict, and the Church and State at odds feeding religious bigotry.
Kathleen is declared a lunatic by a local bishop. Father Patterson’s darkest fears arise; to rescue her could destroy him, and yet the Church he loves and serves seems intent on destroying her.
Betrayal is a story of flawed humanity.
REVIEWS AND CRITIQUES
‘…this book is so well written, the tension so tight, the voice so true throughout, the structure so perfect…..this book could be a major success.’ Frank O’Shea, book reviewer for the Canberra Times and the Irish Echo, February 2014.
‘A healthy dose of imagination and 20 years of research fuelled his version of this story: a good fictional read.’ The Catholic Voice, January 2014 ***
‘One of the very few books I have read to completion in the past 20 years, which says something about the book. Once I got started I found it a compulsive read, being dragged along by the well constructed and an intriguing story, and the depth of sad emotions it raised within me.’ Derek Browne, Canberra
‘Written in the first person. Emotional and arousing. What an incredible drama. I could feel their pain.’ Jan Denten, Noosa.
‘It was a pleasure to read such a sensitively written story: I enjoyed it very much.’ Kerry Robinson, Anna Bay
‘A good old fashion scandal; religious bigotry; conspiracies galore – my kind of novel.’ Ruth Weaver, Canberra
‘A fictional human drama of betrayal on a grand scale that embellishes several sensational events of that era. Loved it!’ Sharlie Ivanfry, Newcastle
BACKGROUND STORIES ON HOW THE NOVEL OF BETRAYAL DEVELOPED
Fragile start to a nun’s brave story by Laura Edwards:
Canberra City News January 6, 2014
Mick O’Donnell with old newspaper clippings he found that led him to write his latest book.
Photo by Gary Schafer
WHEN Mick O’Donnell stumbled across a fragile set of newspapers dating back to the 1920s, a peculiar headline struck him: “Former Nun Sues Bishop”.
“I originally found them in a drawer at a friend’s house which used to be a presbytery – they were left behind from whoever owned the place last, so they must have meant something to someone,” says Mick.
The sensationalism of the headline, together with a lingering intrigue, inspired the Canberra author to write his second book, “Betrayal: The Curse of Father Patterson”.
“The elements of that time really drew my attention, I thought ‘how could this have happened?” says Mick, who spent 18 months writing the novel, reading court transcripts and visiting historical buildings in Sydney.
“It was extraordinary, some of the commentary from this trial – this was a time where women had no decision-making power, and they saw this former nun as an example of them, being suppressed and crumpled by the Catholic Church and now standing up for herself. So they packed into the Supreme Court, and it was mostly women supporting this girl.”
“I grew quite attached to the nun, she’s the heroine in the story, and the last bit is how I imagine it ended – it’s my version of how it could have ended, without giving too much away,” he says.
Mick believes if transferred to today, the trial wouldn’t have been the media sensation it was back then.
“Unless you found something like those old papers, you’d say: ‘Oh that’s nice, ho hum’, because back then a young woman suing a powerful male bishop was huge,” he says.
“There are trials now that are media sensations that perhaps people could read in 50 years and do the same thing as I did – be drawn to it and write a story years and years later.”
Tale of a priest with a sharp edge, by Frank O’Shea, Irish Echo January 23 February 5 2014
“Jim Patterson, a 35 year old priest serving in the Rocks area of Sydney as the world gears up for the First World War, is the first-person narrator. Though born in Tasmania, he studied for the priesthood in Ireland and is asked to take care of Irish teenage girl Kathleen Delaney, newly arrived in Australia.
The two become friends, but are separated by orders of the bishop when it is wrongly thought she is pregnant.
Kathleen subsequently enters a convent in Wagga Wagga, a move initially successful but which turns out badly, resulting in involvement of the media and an outbreak of sectarianism. There is a court case in which the bishop of Wagga is sued for damages; Kathleen is the unwitting focus of this case, leading to deterioration in her health.
The final chapter is written after his death, aged 50, at the Redemptorist retreat house in Galong NSW.
In his previous book, Mick O’Donnell called on his experiences in the navy and in the AFP to write about flying boats and intelligence, gathering and international peacekeeping work. Here…he writes about the processes of the Catholic Church in dealing with people who break its rules. The voice of Jim Patterson is that of a priest committed to his calling, but compromised in his private life. He makes much of his piety and learning and good intentions, but comes across as self-centred and unattractive: a truly memorable fictional creation.
….this book is so well written, then tension so tight, the voice so true throughout, the structure so perfect…this book could be a major success.’
History as it might have been by Geoff Orchison, Editor of The Catholic Voice, February 2014
Rewriting history for the sake of a good fictional read is becoming a habit for Canberra writer Mick O’Donnell.
His second novel, as with his first, is a re-imagining of a historical event, this time a 1920s court case involving a former nun and the then bishop of Wagga Wagga.
A healthy dose of imagination and 20 years of research fuelled his version of the story, sourced from some “musty brown editions” of Sydney’s The Evening News that he came across in 1992.
Mick O’Donnell’s first novel, The Spectre of Stillsbury Lane, released in 2012, built a fictional murder mystery around a real hotel in the Hunter Valley and factual events of the war in the Pacific in the 1940s.