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Hidden Knowledge by Bernardine Bishop

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

An emotionally complex, at times disturbing but ultimately fascinating book that has at its heart the terrible impact of child abuse. Yet it is also about so much more than that as abuse is just one thing in the lives of the characters. Romola Tree is surprised when her brother Father Roger Tree turns up on her doorstep, released on bail pending a child abuse trial of which he admits he's guilty. Separately, Betty is a recent widow whose grief has opened up old wounds from her son's death by drowning, a boy Father Roger tried to save. These two women's lives and those of their families are fascinatingly explored and, of course, ultimately entwine in this masterful book.

If you like Bernardine Bishop you might also like to read books by Barbara Trapido, Linda Grant and Kamila Shamsie.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Bernardine Bishop writes about serious topics with a light touch, but the dark subject matter of this novel may still be unpalatable to some readers. Father Roger Tree is accused of child abuse, many years after the events in question. He confesses, but withholds an earlier guilt. As his brother, the acclaimed novelist Hereward Tree, occupies a medical limbo, their sister Romola must manage alone. But as Roger and Romola suppress the ‘hidden knowledge’ with which they are preoccupied, Betty Winterborne faces up to what has come to light concerning the death of her son twenty years before. Elegant and perceptive.
~ Karen Howlett

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Hidden Knowledge by Bernardine Bishop

'Outdoes Muriel Spark and Evelyn Waugh' Margaret Drabble, Observer Accused of child abuse, Father Roger Tree confesses at once; it masks a darker secret. Meanwhile his sister Romola faces a future without their beloved brother, the novelist Hereward Tree. Can she live with the ending of his last book? And then there is Hereward's much younger lover, Carina, who takes fate into her own hands. But it is Betty Winterborne, forced to re-examine the death of her son Mark twenty years before, who has the courage to face the truth. There are the lies we tell others, and the lies we tell ourselves. This is a story about the difference.


'An extraordinarily brave and powerful novel ... one that pins down the darker aspects of human experience with a precision beyond most writers.'

- Gerard Woodward (author of Vanishing) ,Guardian

'Remarkable and surprising ... outdoes Muriel Spark and Evelyn Waugh in high Catholic comedy ... The plot is brilliantly articulated: storylines present with effortless and enviable ease,minor characters are a delight ... Bishop had long been fascinated by the concept of the impossible moral conundrum , the day of reckoning, and here she has created one that keeps us in suspense to the last moment. She resolves it with a tragic humanity and wit.'

- Margaret Drabble, Observer

'A testament to deft storytelling.'

-Daily Mail

'Bishop relishes coincidence and the unexpected quirks of fate ... [with] a welcome lightness and sense of irony.'

-Literary Review


'It's impossible to recommend the late Bernardine Bishop's wondrous book too highly.'


'Bishop treats a fearful subject with an extraordinary lightness of touch; her humour and her emotional wisdom make this a delightful and humane novel.'

-The Times

'This novel, wise, sharp and startlingly frank, distils a lifetime of reflection on the rules of attraction, affection - and family life. From confused youth to the ordeals and confusions of old age, her wry insights delight.'


'A wonderful novel, one of those rare books which leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of the human heart ... This is an author of exceptional intelligence, subtlety and warmth. Expect to hear the name Bernardine Bishop when the lists for the Costa and Man Booker prizes are complied this year.'


'This novel should appeal to Joanna Trollope fans ... Bishop is a fine, intelligent writer, capable of handling moral and philosophical themes with a light touch.'

-Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Bernardine Bishop

The great-granddaughter of the poet Alice Meynell, Bernardine Bishop is one of only two surviving witnesses from the Lady Chatterley trial in 1960. After writing two early novels, she taught in a London comprehensive school for ten years and then went on to have a distinguished career as a psychotherapist, during which she brought up her two sons. Cancer forced her retirement in 2010 and she returned to her first love, fiction. Bernardine Bishop died in July 2013.

Author photo © Lucy Bergonzi

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Book Info

Publication date

6th November 2014


Bernardine Bishop

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Sceptre an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division


384 pages


Family Drama
Literary Fiction

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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