#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · biography · non-fiction · true stories

#Book Bingo 2019 Round 8: ‘Themes of Justice’ – Blood on the Rosary by Sue Smethurst and Margaret Harrod

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Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries!  To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.

A heartfelt, brave and inspiring memoir about the power of speaking outblood on the rosary small

A brave nun. Her twin brother. The secrets and lies that would tear them apart.

There is a special bond that twins share, an ethereal connection that can’t be put into words. Margaret Harrod shared that unique bond with her twin brother Michael. As children they were inseparable and at age 22, together they gave their lives to the Catholic Church. Margaret became a nun and Michael a Salesian priest – it was the proudest day of their deeply religious parents’ lives.

Margaret cherishes those carefree childhood memories because the brother she adored is now in jail. Father Michael Aulsebrook pleaded guilty to multiple charges of molesting children, some as young as seven. And the unlikely whistleblower was his courageous twin sister.

It cost Margaret everything, but she couldn’t stay silent any longer about the damage her brother was wreaking in his community. Margaret knows of that damage firsthand, having had that trust betrayed herself.

Blood on the Rosary is Margaret’s story – how she sacrificed everything she held dear in the pursuit of the truth, and how she bravely fought her church and her community to bring paedophile priests to justice.


Blood on the Rosary is another collaboration piece and true account by Australian journalist Sue Smethurst with Margaret Harrod. It delves into the emotionally fraught and complicated world of religion, power, authority, abuse and recovery. It is at times deeply moving and bleak, but it is also empowering. Blood on the Rosary goes a long way in encouraging victims of abuse crimes to seek justice and speak out.

Blood on the Rosary is the moving memoir of twins, Michael and Margaret, who grew up together, entered the church together, but their inseparable bond was severed in the wake of the atrocities committed by Michael. Although their parents were incredibly proud of the twins once they both entered the religious order, Michael as a Salesian priest, and Margaret a nun, their holy image was stained by Michael’s crimes against the innocent. Convicted and jailed for molesting young children, Michael was eventually placed in jail through the assistance of his sister Margaret, who could no longer stand back and watch on as her twin committed these crimes. For Margaret, sending her beloved twin brother to jail was just the start of her ordeal. Years of abuse, trauma and a loss of trust resulted in Margaret’s downfall. As she bravely fought to gain the upper hand over her past, Margaret had to confront the ugly truth of the terrible acts committed against her and many innocents, which were silenced by the church. A tale of both survival and the fight for justice, Blood on the Rosary is an honest and raw memoir.

The release of Blood on the Rosary, which deals with trauma and abuse at the heart of the church comes at a very timely point in Australian society. With the sentencing of Cardinal George Pell and the crisis faced by the Catholic church in the wake of this case, a memoir that is centred on the injustice faced by a former nun is relevant. I do need to issue a trigger warning in approaching this book. There are scenes of abuse of a sexual nature, incest and crimes committed by authority figures. Whilst the details of these acts are not covered in depth, it may affect some readers.

I recently read fictionalised account of a sexual abuse survivor of the Catholic Church, based in Ireland, not Australia. I stated that this book was the hardest book I have possibly read in my reading career. Blood on the Rosary was another heart wrenching read of a similar nature. The cold hard facts and emotionally fraught experiences are laid out by Margaret Harrod. I have to admire Margaret Harrod for her bravery and ability to speak out. It was an incredibly hard process, which the book outlines. However, I do feel that in sharing her story, Margaret make give a sense of ‘we are all in this together’ to fellow victims of abuse. Margaret may also inspire other to seek help, or go to authorities about crimes of this nature committed against them.

I decided to read Blood on the Rosary for the themes of justice covered in the book, which I wanted to link to the book bingo reading challenge I am completing this year. Although this book was harrowing and it was hard to review, it did highlight themes of justice. Here is a taste of Margaret Harrod’s journey.

‘But this is only the beginning of a long journey for all of us. Tougher times would test our mettle. Through my breakdown and the steps to recovery, one thing had become absolutely clear: there was only one antidote that would truly help me heal. Justice.’

While justice is the overriding theme of Blood on the Rosary, so is faith, spirituality, self belief and breaking the cycle of shame surrounding abuse. In confronting her own story and that of her brother, Margaret Harrod was able to feel empowered and resilient. The next chapter in Margaret’s life is about recovery and helping others. The inclusion at the close of the memoir, a full page dedicated to help and services, indicates the important role books such as Blood on the Rosary play in reaching out to those who may need it.

Blood on the Rosary by Sue Smethurst and Margaret Harrod was published on February 1st 2019 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

Blood on the Rosary is book #47 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge 

4 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2019 Round 8: ‘Themes of Justice’ – Blood on the Rosary by Sue Smethurst and Margaret Harrod

  1. Great review Amanda. It sounds like a hard read and probably something that we all should find time to read.


  2. Wonderful review Amanda. A hard read for your bingo challenge, you sure have read some heart-wrenching books of late, time for a few easy and fun reads, perhaps?


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