Out of Context: A Study of Thomas Keneally’s Novels


In Thomas Keneally's four published novels, tendencies which we have grown familiar with in the fiction of H. H. Richardson, Christina Stead, Patrick White, Hal Porter and Randolph Stow are carried forward to a sort of logical extreme. The tendencies surface in Three Cheers for the Paraclete as in the novels preceding it. But Keneally's latest work comprises two quite distinct sorts of response to experience. In its main, its more substantial part, this novel is a reaction, a vigorous leaping away from those tendencies. This new vigour is not merely reflexive. It can be seen as Keneally's coming into a clear, creative awareness of the distinctive nature of his powers, of the special shape of his imaginative responses. The seeds of this departure, reading retrospectively, are seen to lie at odd points in the earlier works. Standing in so lively an opposition to the tendencies-become-dogmas of preceding Australian fiction, the fresh attitudes struck in Three Cheers for the Paraclete look very like the opening of a completely new chapter in the Australian novel.

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Published 1 May 1969 in Volume 4 No. 1. Subjects: Literary career, Literary portrayal, Literary techniques, structures & modes, Tom Keneally.

Cite as: Burns, Robert. ‘Out of Context: A Study of Thomas Keneally’s Novels.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, 1969, doi: 10.20314/als.0badcab2c7.