Father Frank

By Paul Burke

(reviewed by Irina)

An Irish priest in London wrestles with himself – not his vocation, but with celibacy and the fact that he doesn’t believe in God and never has. Now when have we heard that before? In the nineteen-sixties. But this book is from the twenty-first century, if only just. The premise isn’t new; the resolution isn’t, either. But the way Burke handles it is fresh enough to keep it interesting.

  • Author: Paul Burke
  • Title: Father Frank
  • Published by: Flame (Hodder & Stoughton), London
  • Year: 2001

Frank Dempsey may not believe in God, but he believes in people. I suspect that the way he drifts into the priesthood is God’s doing: where he ends up he’s the right man in the right place. But then he falls in love…

Sarah Marshall is a successful professional woman, but when she meets Frank her moral side starts to show up. And her emotional side. She knows it’s hopeless: she has God and the whole church for a rival. She doesn’t fight; but she wins.

Father Frank Dempsey breaks his vow of celibacy. They get married. And in that, the novel is exactly like any soul-searching-priest novel from the nineteen-sixties. I’d have liked to read a novel about a priest who didn’t succumb, who chose the Church over the woman, God over himself. But then, we know on page four that Frank doesn’t believe in God, though it’s clear that God believes in Frank.

That’s a minor nitpick, though. It’s a very enjoyable book and I’d like to read his second novel, Untorn Tickets, as well.