Julia Glynn is the very model of a 'prim and well-conducted' bourgeois Catholic wife, a regular Mass-goer and president of her local charitable society. Her crippled husband Michael is the richest man in town, held in awe by bankers and bishops alike. In his illness he is dutifully tended to by the household manservant Stephen Lydon and by his handsome young nephew Doctor Jim. As Michael's condition worsens, their friend Father Victor proposes a pilgrimage to Lourdes. When Julia begins receiving a series of obscene anonymous letters detailing her sexual infidelities with Jim, her suspicions fall on the 'sinister' Stephen. And what connection do Stephen and Michael have with the suicide of local boy Tommy Baggot, a well-known figure within Dublin's secretive homosexual community? Why does she find herself both attracted to and repelled by Stephen? As the day of departure to Lourdes approaches, John Broderick probes into the heart of an Irish small town that is 'as watchful as the jungle', stripping his characters of their 'respectable clothes' to reveal their true selves in all their selfishness and 'elemental sensuality'.
The Pilgrimage's depiction of sexual need and the 'petty vices' of 1950s Ireland led to its banning by the Irish Censorship Board on its original publication in 1961. Under the title The Chameleons it sold over 100,000 copies in America. This re-issue restores Broderick to his rightful place alongside John McGahern and Brinsley MacNamara, taking a new generation of readers on a unique 'pilgrimage of the body'. Another of his novels, The Waking of Willie Ryan, and a biography, Something in the Head, are being reissued by The Lilliput Press in tandem with this book.