The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre
I don’t know why this book won the 2009 Giller Prize, unless it’s because the other shortlist entries I’ve read so far are just as bad. The narrative jerks faster than a priest giving a handjob (too much?), constantly bouncing between time periods and among too many characters with similar names. I had as little idea about what was going on most of the time as the main character did. When a protagonist has no control or understanding over what is happening then there’s no real tension or drama in a story. It is also unsatisfying to have the protagonist demonstrate no growth or even changed circumstances during the course of the novel.
This book centres on a sensitive topic – the sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests on the innocent children in their care. Father Duncan, the first person narrator, has been his bishop’s dutiful enforcer, employed to check the excesses of priests and, crucially, to suppress the evidence. But as events veer out of control, he is forced into painful self-knowledge as family, community and friendship are torn apart under the strain of suspicion, obsession and guilt.