> Skip to content
Read an extract
Play sample
  • Published: 1 November 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143777816
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $32.99

Fanatic Heart

You don’t need me to tell you Keneally is a brilliant storyteller, but with Fanatic Heart he proves it once again.

The novel’s resonance for our own times is deafening.

A retelling of the life and exploits of Irish patriot John Mitchel, with a particular focus on his time in exile on Van Diemen’s Land.

John Mitchel, Irishman, lawyer, journalist, activist and politician, is a complex character. Charged with treason in Ireland and tried by an English judge he was snuck off mainland Ireland on the day he was charged to avoid a breakout and rebellion. He was transported initially to Bermuda, then to South Africa and then to Van Diemen’s Land where as an Irishman he was supported by many and given a ticket of leave. He soon became a farmer and activist and was eventually secreted out of Australia to the USA, where it was felt he could be more active for the Irish cause.

A powerful voice and force for Irish nationalism who also found himself, after landing in the US, supporting the ownership of slaves. This was partly driven by living through the Irish famine. He believed Irish workers were worse off than slaves, neither fed or paid in currency for their work. And partly seeing the absolute adherence to capitalism and the pursuit of wealth in New York. People were dying in horrific industrial and transport accidents in front of those getting wealthy and no heed was paid.

To support her husband through all the charges against him, Jenny Mitchel, when she too could have been punished for airing her beliefs on Irish nationalism, publicly supported his campaigns. She also packed up her many children and followed her prisoner and convict husband to a number of different continents to continue to support her husband and their beliefs.

Tom, a proud Irishman and descendant of convicts on his maternal and paternal sides, disagrees with many of Mitchel’s beliefs and behaviours and has to wrestle with these conflicts in the novel. As ever, Tom Keneally surprises readers and takes on new and challenging characters and ideas.

  • Published: 1 November 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143777816
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Tom Keneally

Thomas Keneally was born in 1935 and his first novel was published in 1964. Since then he has written a considerable number of novels and non-fiction works. His novels include The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Schindler's List and The People's Train. He has won the Miles Franklin Award, the Booker Prize, the Los Angeles Times Prize, the Mondello International Prize and has been made a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library, a Fellow of the American Academy, recipient of the University of California gold medal, and is now the subject of a 55 cent Australian stamp.

He has held various academic posts in the United States, but lives in Sydney.

Also by Tom Keneally

See all

Praise for Fanatic Heart

Keneally presents an exemplary hero with unforgivable flaws. But he does so much more. His picture of an Ireland of the 1840s, of the Tasmania of that time and of the still recently colonised and independent US all draw the reader in as if the mid-19th century were just yesterday and as real as ever a yesterday is. You don’t need me to tell you Keneally is a brilliant storyteller, but with Fanatic Heart he proves it once again.

Erich Mayer, Arts Hub

Many Australian readers now may never have heard of Mitchel; Keneally’s feat is to have brought him back to life and to have recreated the fraught circumstances that made the complex man – and the remarkable woman, Jenny Verner, who was his wife. It’s the fine grain of Keneally re-imagining, and the ironic sparkle of his prose that carries his panoramic novel, strobe-lit as it is from the start by an epigraph from Yeats: “Out of Ireland have we come./ Great hatred, little room,/ Maimed us at the start./ I carry from my mother’s womb,/ A fanatic heart.” And the novel’s resonance for our own times is deafening.

Morag Fraser, The Sydney Morning Herald

From the splendid opening line, this novel reads like no ordinary tale of the Irish potato famine.

The Times

Meticulously researched and full of compelling historical detail . . . a gripping and resonant story.

Financial Times

Discover more

Exclusive audiobook content that will inspire you to read more than ever before

Love audiobooks? They’re even better with extra content! Check out some of the audiobooks that include exclusive recorded content for even more enjoyment.

Fanatic Heart book club questions

A little bit fiction, a little bit fact – Fanatic Heart surprises readers as Tom Keneally puts a new spin on these characters and ideas.