‘MY LOVELY FRANKIE’ by Judith Clarke

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A masterful, moving story about a teenage boy caught between faith and love, by one of Australia’s finest YA writers.

‘Frankie believed in Heaven quite literally, as if it was another lovely world out past the stars. And when he spoke the word “love”, it seemed to spring free and fly into the air like a beautiful balloon you wanted to run after. But I couldn’t tell my parents about Frankie, not properly. I told them I’d made friends with the boy in the room next to mine, and how he’d come from this little town out west. I couldn’t tell them how he was becoming the best thing in my world. I couldn’t tell anyone, I hardly admitted it to myself.’

In the 1950s, ‘entering’ the seminary was for ever, and young boys were gathered into the priesthood before they were old enough to know what they would lose. Tom went to St Finbar’s because he was looking for something more than the ordinary happiness of his home and school.

But then he discovered that being able to love another person was the most important thing of all. For Tom, loving Frankie made him part of the world. Even when Frankie was gone…

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of MY LOVELY FRANKIE for review.

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Although this book is classified as Young Adult, I don’t really this it would appeal much to the young adult audience who enjoys your “typical” YA stories about teenagers in contemporary life. MY LOVELY FRANKIE is the story of Tom recounting his teenage years in the seminary where he meets Frankie, the boy he once loved.

I went in to this book expecting it to be a romance between two boys in the seminary. However, I wouldn’t really call it a romance as such. Frankie and Tom grow a close relationship which I found quite beautiful, but I was expecting more. And I wanted more. The way older Tom described his thoughts of Frankie when he was younger was so beautiful to read and he really shined light on Frankie’s character. When Tom mentions that Frankie disappeared from the seminary and he never saw him again, he spent the rest of his life affected by this loss.

I really enjoyed Judith Clarke’s writing of the story and it was probably my favourite aspect of the novel. It was extremely captivating and beautiful and this added so much more depth to the story. Tom is reflecting on his teenage hood at the seminary, and this is obvious in the calmness of the writing. Also, it’s a really quick read, and who doesn’t love a quick and easy read?

The setting of the seminary was described with such raw detail that it really made me think about what it would’ve been like for them during this time period. Being a teenager and coming of age in these social circumstances would’ve been really difficult, and Clarke expressed that brilliantly through the differing characters of Tom and Frankie. Tom is an only child whose parents didn’t want this for their son, but he decided to do it anyway. He wanted life experience and to see the world, and I think he definitely got that. Frankie on the other hand, was sent there by his father who was abusive and a down right a$$. I found both of these characters great choices to read about and I think Clarke did an amazing job at developing them.

Although I didn’t love MY LOVELY FRANKIE, I still thought it was a beautiful and insightful historical read. The ending of the “mystery” was a bit of a let down for me, but I think the final few “goose bump” pages definitely made up for that.

If you’ve read MY LOVELY FRANKIE, comment below your thoughts because I would love to hear them!

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