In 1845, carrying a quantity of silkworms and a huge donation from wealthy beneficiaries, Fabrice Cleriquot is dispatched to the Swan River Colony. Joining Fabrice are 28 mismatched Catholic missionaries. The Bishop has a diocese half the size of Europe and not a penny left to run it. Dom Salvado wants a Spanish Benedictine Monastery in the middle of nowhere and the Irish Sisters of Mercy hope to “rescue little girls” from the bush to raise as good Christians.
As Europe descends into turmoil and the New World stubbornly resists the missionary dream, the silk merchant’s son is left wondering what remains for an atheist to believe in.
With a satirical eye and a compassionate heart, Peter Burke conveys the damage created in the name of good intentions. This is a potent reimagining of the New Norcia Story. A pleasure to read.