Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 31 October 2011

Solace - Belinda McKeon

Mark Casey has gone from one way of life with his parents on their farm in rural Ireland, to the city life of Dublin, where he is an academic. He teaches part-time at Trinity and is working on his PhD about a writer, Maria Edgeworth, who came from the same area of Ireland as him. He visits his parents on occasional weekends and helps his father with the tasks on the farm. They have a difficult relationship; Mark knows that his father doesn’t understand the nature or point of his academic studies, whilst Tom, his father, is set in his ways and wishes Mark would be more involved in the farm, and sees that as Mark’s ‘proper’ future. This is one of the main conflicts, between father and son, past and future. As the novel commences, Mark is struggling to focus on his research, and it is whilst out drinking in Dublin with a friend and avoiding work, that he meets Joanne, a trainee solicitor, and they begin seeing each other. It emerges that there is in fact an interesting and turbulent history between their families. Then part way through the novel, two huge, unexpected events occur which will change all their lives forever. It’s hard to comment much further on the storyline from this point onwards without spoiling the plot for future readers.

This is a moving and impressive debut novel tinged with sadness, and it draws you in. The author captures accurately and beautifully the way relationships develop, with cleverly observed insights into relationships between new partners, between parents and children, and about everyone’s expectations of each other. It depicts the eternal misunderstandings and disappointments between generations; in fact this is what is very much at the heart of the novel. It deals with love, sadness and loss, and the demands of traditional versus modern lifestyles. The pace is slow and gentle, and then suddenly the author will deal a devastating blow. I keep thinking about the title, and where solace is found for the characters in the novel. It has been endorsed by Colm Toibin and I would certainly draw positive comparisons in the writing style between the work of his that I have read and this novel. If they are something you enjoy reading, you may enjoy this too. 


  1. Hmm - this one sounds interesting. I quite love the title.

  2. Hi Dana, yes it's a lovely word :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)