About the book

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

Book cover - my lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke.
Published by: 
Allen & Unwin

About the author


Judith Clarke is major force in young adult fiction both in Australia and internationally. Her novels include the multi-award-winning Wolf on the Fold, as well as the very popular and funny Al Capsella series. Kalpana's Dream was named an Honor Book in the prestigious Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards and One Whole and Perfect Day was an Honor Book in the American Library Association's prestigious Michael L. Printz Awards for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. The Winds of Heaven was named an Honour Book in the 2010 CBCA Book of the Year awards and shortlisted for the inaugural Prime Minister's Literary Award.

Author - my lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke.

Judges’ comments

This is a literary work and one where the emotions stirred by it are likely to reverberate with the reader long after the last page has been turned. The story is crafted in first person as Tom Rowland, a retired priest, recalls his time as a 16-year-old novice at St Finbar's Seminary in the 1950s. Here he met the charismatic Frankie Maguire, who would influence his life, forever. The title—My Lovely Frankie—aptly encapsulates Tom's deep love for Frankie as well as Frankie's warmth, power and joie de vivre. Free-spirited Frankie is imbued with love, which he shares unaffectedly within his 'lovely, lovely' world. The antagonist, a kind of Iago figure, is Brian Cooley, known as Etta, an epithet derived from the corrupted reverse spelling of Hate. He is the appointed Head Prefect of the seminary, a willing disciple of the cruelty and punishment dealt out by the Rector. He is also infatuated with Frankie but in a jealous and voyeuristic way. Etta is the oppositional character who changes the courses of the lives of both Frankie and Tom and who may well have been the last person to see Frankie before he disappeared.

Father Tom's recollections are, while drawn through the veil of an ageing memory, reflective and nostalgic and highlight the tragic events of the past while also allowing the reader to understand Tom's loyalty and devotion to the memory of Frankie. Tom's voice as his sixteen-year-old self, suggests a thoughtful, even intellectual, boy grappling with the enormous changes in his life once he has entered the seminary. The writing is lyrical and beautiful, powerfully conveying all the turmoil of the loneliness, fear of punishment, and neglect the boys experience as well as the strength of their friendships. Ultimately though, this is a story of love and self-discovery, faith and commitment.