Nadine Dorries Doubles Down On Catholic Church “Attack” Claim Over Novel

A dramatic headline from the Big Issue:

Nadine Dorris Interview: There is a Catholic Church Conspiracy Against Me

The “conspiracy” refers to her debut novel, The Four Streets:

…Critic Christopher Howse – a former member of the hard-line Roman Catholic grouping Opus Dei – described it as “the worst novel I’ve read in 10 years”.

He was brought in, Dorries told The Big Issue, because the original review wasn’t tough enough on her.

“The Telegraph commissioned someone to review my book,” Dorries said. “It was a lovely review. They didn’t like it so they got someone from Opus Dei to review it.

“And one of the central characters in my book is a child-abusing priest. So you’re not going to get someone from Opus Dei to review a book about an abusive priest.

“If you go on to Conservative Home you can see a review Iain Dale has written of the Telegraph review.

“I was told the Catholic church will come out and attack me for the book and that seems to be what’s happening.”

Howse’s review was certainly mocking, and perhaps made the mistake of criticising a potboiler for failing to be high literature (for a contrasting positive review, there’s Lucy Helliker at the Express); but the suggestion that it was written in bad faith as part of a conspiracy to protect the Catholic Church from criticism over priestly child abuse is just the latest variation of the histrionic and vicious counter-attacks she dishes out against critical voices (including, it should be remembered, her ex-boyfriend’s estranged wife).

In this instance, though, Dale appears to have put the idea in her head:

…And then you need to take into account Howse used to be a member of Opus Dei. I doubt he took kindly to the storyline of the Catholic Priest abusing a young girl. True to form he gave it a one star review and called it the worst novel he’d read in ten years. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

The claim also made it into the Daily Mail, albeit just as “some wonder”.

Dale also suggested, more reasonably, that the Telegraph may have a particular animus against Dorries over her views on MPs expenses and  the paper’s owners, and he noted a row on Twitter with the paper’s diarist Tim Walker, after Walker was disinvited from her book launch:

…Yesterday [10 April] morning he went even further in a vitriolic attack on her. To be honest he showed himself up. Nadine wasn’t taking any of it and accused him of lying. When he was caught out denying Cristina Odone had ever been commissioned to write any piece for the Telegraph Nadine posted a tweet from Odone confirming she had indeed been asked to do just that. “Telegraph asked to interview Nadine – I read the book, couldn’t put it down and told her so.”

Note here the slide from Dorries’ claim of an “original review” that “wasn’t tough enough on her”, to an “interview”. Here’s the Twitter context:

Dorries: Daily Telegraph rejected review of my book they commissioned  Christina Odone to write and got a bloke to write a spiteful nasty one instead

Odone: …telegraph asked to interview Nadine -i read the book, couldn’t put it down, and told her so

Walker: fair enough! At the Telegraph, there is a belief in free speech. So Nadine’s claim untrue.

Dorries: Sadly, @ThatTimWalker telling porkies – claims DT did not commission review from Christina Odone. Happy to show any journo texts on phone. [Later deleted – RB]

Dorries: OFFS have you read Christina’s tweet? You LIED is that plain enough?

Odone’s interview has not apparently been published, and Dorries may have valid cause to complain; but there’s nothing here to suggest that Walker “LIED”, or that – in a typical piece of slipperiness from Dale – he “was caught out denying Cristina Odone had ever been commissioned to write any piece”. Why can’t these people just make their case honestly?

The dispute also made its way into the Press Gazette:

Howse suggests that any conspiracy theories are wide of the mark: “I rather admire Nadine Dorries, and I hoped her novel would be good.

“Reading it spoiled my weekend. It’s just so badly told: a sagging narrative with a castration fantasy stuck on top. It’s not my fault.

“I wasn’t invited to the party anyway, but if we meet in future I hope we’d speak civilly.”