My Lovely Frankie (Judith Clarke, A&U)
Tom has never forgotten his friend Frankie—even though he hasn’t seen him for over half a century. In 1950, when Tom is just 16, he thinks he feels the hand of God stretched above him in church and is compelled to join the priesthood. At St Finbar’s, a seminary for young boys, Tom meets Frankie: endlessly positive despite his unhappy family life, a hopeless romantic, full of wonder at what he calls the ‘lovely world’. Tom’s feelings for Frankie swiftly move beyond friendship, and he finally understands his father’s lesson that love itself—not who you love—is the most important thing. But someone at St Finbar’s is watching closely, and it seems unavoidable that Tom’s fear of losing Frankie will come true. This is a beautiful, subtle tale of first and unrequited love that’s made all the more poignant by its thoughtfully handled religious themes. Author Judith Clarke has crafted a nuanced portrayal of what it can mean to have faith and grace beyond the bounds of organised religion, and how love can change the way you live and how you see the world. My Lovely Frankie is a bittersweet tale about enduring love, memory and hope. Despite its historical backdrop, the novel’s message and subject matter feel especially timely today, making it a thought-provoking read for teenagers 14 years and up and adults alike.
Carody Culver is a freelance writer and editor and the program coordinator for Queensland Poetry Festival