Read Solace by Belinda McKeon Online


Mark Casey has left home, the rural Irish community where his family has farmed the same land for generations, to study for a doctorate in Dublin, a vibrant, contemporary city full of possibility. To his father, Tom, who needs help baling the hay and ploughing the fields, Mark's pursuit isn't work at all, and indeed Mark finds himself whiling away his time with pubs and paMark Casey has left home, the rural Irish community where his family has farmed the same land for generations, to study for a doctorate in Dublin, a vibrant, contemporary city full of possibility. To his father, Tom, who needs help baling the hay and ploughing the fields, Mark's pursuit isn't work at all, and indeed Mark finds himself whiling away his time with pubs and parties. His is a life without focus or responsibility, until he meets Joanne Lynch, a trainee solicitor whom he finds irresistible. Joanne too has a past to escape from and for a brief time she and Mark share the chaos and rapture of a new love affair, until the lightning strike of tragedy changes everything....

Title : Solace
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780330529846
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 341 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Solace Reviews

  • Barry Pierce
    2019-06-14 16:53

    Irish writers do melancholy best. We are a nation of Jaques' from As You Like It. Belinda McKeon tells a story which strangely parallels mine. We have Mark, a young guy who grew up in the Irish countryside, who decides to go to university the city to study English. However Mark's life is full of major setbacks that he must somehow overcome throughout the novel. McKeon is a natural. Her ability to capture her character's voices is superb and this leads to one of the sweariest opening chapters to a novel that I've ever read. In Ireland, swearing isn't a taboo, it's an art form. We're a country that uses "fucker" and "cunt" as terms of affection. I fully admire a novel that doesn't hold back, this isn't Val Doonican's Ireland. While I have to admit that it does buckle in a few place, this is overall an enjoyable read. It shows that this new generation of Irish writers are here to stay. And I can only welcome them.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-06-08 22:46

    There were some very beautiful passages in this first novel set in modern-day Ireland and which tells a story of inter-generational conflict and inter-family rivalry. The rural scenes worked best for me and I wanted more of those. I liked the sub-plot about the eighteenth century author, Maria Edgeworth and was eager for it to be woven more satisfyingly into the main plot. Here are some passages, which give an idea of the promise in Belinda McKeon’s writing: “But, then, just as quickly, they looked away, to the baby again, and they were focused tight in on her as though on a button they were trying to unfasten; pulling the white cap back down on her head, taking the little hands and hiding them under white cotton cuffs, touching the tiny, crumpled face and willing it to smooth contentment. And at that kind of willing, that kind of wishing, they would spend, probably, most of the rest of their days.” “Those first years, when he was small, there was pleasure just in watching him among the animals, the fields, the sheds that, before him, had only meant work or money. To see this boy stride around the farm, even if he was hardly taller than the sheepdog, even if he was in short trousers and red wellingtons, even if had a head of curls like a girl; even for all this, the sight of him there was like a prayer lodged in the mind and answered with every thought.”“Mark could see his reflection in the glass against the darkness; he looked hard-faced, he thought, wild-haired, his shoulders hunched.....He looked like one of the farmers who lived nearby....The same way of walking, the same way of standing, the same way of looking up slowly and assessing whatever met their eye - a woman, an engine, a sky.”And a final one:“Faced with this silence that was Keogh’s kindness, he felt only light and bloodless, emptied of himself and of everything that fixed him to his standing. He needed something to shoulder against, something at which to pitch himself, muscled with the old fury, with the old contempt. But there was nothing.”

  • Michelle
    2019-05-21 20:59

    I must admit that I feel a bit duped by the hype for this novel. It was nominated for the Orange Prize (UK award for best novel by female author written in English), and it received such glowing reviews from Colm Toibin and Ann Enright (The Gathering is wonderful), that I was convinced that this one would sing to my soul. Good job by Scribner marketing, I guess. I did enjoy the novel to a certain extent. Tom Casey is a wonderful, well drawn character, and the scenes on the farm are vivid and poignant. The aging and ailing academic, Clive Robinson, was also nicely fleshed out. I wished for more detail about the time that Joanne spent as his student, and felt that that would have lent her character more dimension. As it is written, there isn't much that supports Robinson and Joanne's connection beyond the fact that she was inspired by a book from his syllabus. Mark Casey I found to be self absorbed and thoroughly unlikeable. He egregiously neglects his parents, his girlfriend, his daughter, and his shoddy, ill-conceived thesis.Mark and Tom suffer a terrible loss, their weak & adversarial relationship is tested and...remains weak. Where is the solace in that?

  • TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
    2019-05-21 19:50

    Solace, the debut novel from Irish poet and playwright Belinda McKeon, which has been getting a lot of attention lately, is a family drama, or more precisely, an exploration of the bonds and difficulties that exist between a father and a son. We initially encounter this particular father and son in a prologue that is really taken, not from the beginning of the book, but from its middle, a choice that’s partly good, and partly not-so-good.The father is Tom Casey, a taciturn, hard-bitten, hard-working farmer in County Longford in southern Ireland. Tom is a man whose education and interests are quite limited. He knows all about honor, though, and loyalty and responsibility. There are those who would do well to take a leaf or two from Tom Casey’s book, even though he isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, perfect. And while Tom loves his family fiercely, like the old fashioned man he is, he also expects them to obey. In Tom Casey’s house, Tom Casey’s word is law.The person Tom understands least is his own son, Mark, who, as the book opens, is down from Dublin for the summer with his young daughter, Aiofe, to help his father with the baling of the hay. The two men eye each other with suspicion and mistrust. Tom sees Mark as sullen, while Mark resents Tom’s attentions to Aiofe. (That strange – to American ears – name seems to be pronounced ee-FA.) In the book’s opening pages, we get a sense of the strained relationship between Tom and Mark, and we also get the sense that something significant has happened that affects, not just these two men, but the entire Casey family. It isn’t what’s said; it’s what’s unsaid. It’s in the looks the local shopgirls give Tom and Aiofe as they make their purchases. And this isn’t the first time those looks have been given: It was as familiar to him by now as the sight of his own eyes in the bathroom mirror, the look that he had caught on their faces: fear and thrill and greed and pure excitement; a glimpse right into the wreckage on the side of the road.After presenting us with the prologue, McKeon moves the reader back in time to the events that set her story in motion, back to Mark’s days as a student at Trinity College in Dublin. Unlike his father, Mark never had any use for rural life, and he was relieved to leave the farm for Dublin and Trinity. But Mark doesn’t really fit in with “big city” life, either. He’s a PhD candidate, writing a thesis on the work of Maria Edgeworth, a writer who was from the same part of Ireland as Mark, and whose family's former ascendancy estate now houses the hospital where Mark's mother, Maura, used to work as a nurse. Like many grad students, Mark finds he’s late turning in the next chapter of his thesis; in fact, he’s pretty much lost interest in school and would rather drift along, drinking beer and frittering away his time.Mark’s life changes when he meets pretty, green-eyed, trainee solicitor, Joanne Lynch, who just happens to have grown up very close to Mark’s family’s home. More outgoing that Tom, and more energetic, Joanne might seem, at first glance, to be just what Mark needs in order to turn his stalled life around. There’s a huge problem, however. Joanne’s late father was a real scoundrel, a swindler, and one of the persons he swindled was Tom Casey. And Tom Casey still bears a grudge against the Lynch family, a grudge that will come into play when Mark and Joanne embark upon an intense love affair, one that quickly produces the couple's daughter, the charming Aiofa. This “ancient grudge” theme is a familiar one in Irish literature. It’s been done before, and I really can’t say it’s done best in Solace. It isn’t. Edna O’Brien did a far better job working with the “ancient grudge” theme in Wild Decembers, for example. And if one wants the best example of a “continuation of the parents’ feud” one need look no further than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.The “ancient grudge” and the “continuation of the parents’ feud,” however, aren’t the main themes of this novel. The father-son relationship, and the divide between the rural/traditional and the city/progressive ways of life always take center stage. Joanne even has a small subplot that revolves around the parent-child relationship, around family inheritance and family responsibility, but this subplot isn’t as developed or as significant as it could have been.To tell you that a tragic event takes place just past the midpoint of this book probably isn’t going to come as any surprise. It’s been foreshadowed in this review, and that’s only because McKeon foreshadows it so strongly in her book. Far too strongly, I think. I was surprised that the author gave so much away so soon, given how subtle she was in her writing regarding other things, e.g., a physical fight between Tom and Mark.One professional reviewer characterized the tragedy that befalls the Casey family as one “which even Hardy might have found it difficult to deal.” I can’t agree with that. My goodness, has the reviewer not read Jude the Obscure? Thomas Hardy wasn’t afraid to tackle any tragedy, and while the bereavement in Solace is truly terrible and truly tragic, it’s not something that’s unique to the Casey family. That doesn’t mean I didn’t care. I did. At least I tried to. It does, however, mean that the book isn’t as fresh and original as it could have been. In some ways, I thought McKeon was taking the easy way out. There were so many other ways, ways that hadn’t been done to death, to throw Tom and Mark, and even Aiofe, together and test their relationships and their boundaries.Three very different characters – Mark, Tom, and Joanne – function as point-of-view characters in this novel. While I thought Tom was particularly well drawn, I can’t say the same for Mark and Joanne. Joanne’s a likable girl, filled with energy and spirit. We know too little about Joanne, though, her deeper feelings about Mark and Aiofe and her own parents. I have to admit, I didn’t like Mark at all. He seemed downright childish and hateful when he observes, with much disdain, that Tom doesn’t even know the meaning of “ignorant” and when noting another farmer’s talk about “global warning.” I don’t need to like every character I encounter in a novel. In fact, sometimes the ones I don’t like are the most interesting. And there’s the rub. Not only is Mark unlikable, he’s extremely dull and uninteresting as well. Nothing, not even Joanne or Aiofe seems to awaken a spark of passion in this fumbling, callow, and self-centered young man. While reading, I was always anxious to leave Joanne’s and Mark’s words behind and get back to Tom’s. The very best thing about Solace is the character of Tom Casey. Now, Tom is definitely not dull and callow. In many ways, Tom is very ordinary and unremarkable. He’s a hard-working man who adores his young granddaughter and finds it difficult to get along with his grown son, a son who has very different ideas about life and how it should be lived. Tom, though, possesses a vitality, and yes, even a charm, that all of the other characters in Solace lack. I felt the uniqueness of Tom, the genuineness. One of the novel’s best and most genuine scenes revolves around Tom as he’s first taken aback by one of Aiofe’s tantrums, then finds the whole thing laughable, then dissolves into tears, the tears he had been, until that point, unable to shed. It’s the character of Tom Casey who brings this book to life. He’s just a magnificent creation.As unlikable as I found Mark, I did like the way McKeon refused to judge her characters. All of them are, in their own way, greatly flawed human beings, and fallible, never wholly “right” and never wholly “wrong.” This refusal to judge reminded me of Kent Haruf’s beautiful novels Plainsong and Eventide, both of which I loved, and of course, of William Trevor, though McKeon definitely isn’t on par with either of those great authors. I’m not saying she couldn’t be in the future, just that she isn’t there yet despite the praise Solace has received.The prose in this novel is adequate, but except for snatches here and there, not great. I did like McKeon’s understatement, and I thought it fit well into the Irish tradition of John McGahern, Brian Moore, and William Trevor, for instance. But unlike those giants of Irish literature, McKeon seems so afraid of falling into sentimentality that she almost completely avoids any expression of emotion, leaving her book rather flat and monotone, and failing, most of the time, to engage at least one reader. The stark tension and pinpoint focus of the prologue, which really is wonderfully written, is sadly lost in stale jokes and too many details for the balance for the book.And there’s altogether too much “telling” in this novel as opposed to “showing.” A prime example is a physical altercation between Tom and Mark. This should have been a raw, visceral scene, but McKeon fails to give us any of that raw emotion:Then he (Tom) went deep, went fast, moved as though on ice through convolutions of his own invention, through spirals that could not be anticipated and could not be stopped; he was fluent, exhilarated, alight.It’s pretty, though chilly, writing, but it leaves one uninvolved, and one of the fiction writer’s highest goals should be to involve the reader as much as possible. Except for Tom, and then not all the time, McKeon’s understatement left me unable to connect with this novel, unable to work up much caring one way or the other about things even though I really wanted to care. Sometimes raw emotion – even sentimentality – is a good thing. One just needs to use it sparingly.McKeon does have a wonderful gift for description. Her snapshots of rural Irish life in County Longford are both charming and intoxicating:It had been a beautiful summer’s evening. It had been hard to want to be anywhere else, looking out at the meadows stretching golden against the sunset, and at the small lake beyond them, and at the bruised blue and grey of the hills on the horizon.And lest the reader forget that this is Ireland in crisis, in the midst of a financial meltdown:Inside those houses on those hills were people, and people made everything difficult; tripped over one another and tripped one another up.While the romance between Mark and Joanne felt inauthentic, and therefore failed to move me, I was moved by McKeon’s images of life in rural Ireland. For example, a frosted tractor window that looks like it’s not “one pane of glass but a thousand tiny chips, held together for one last moment within the square of the frame,” could also be a metaphor for the fragile depiction of human relationships and human life found in this book. It was a beautiful image and one I won’t forget. I was also moved by Maura Casey as she regards the sexual adventures of the young “with a mixture of envy and exhaustion.” Now that’s real humor. Gentle humor. Grown up humor as opposed to Mark’s cruder expressions, which I didn’t enjoy at all.McKeon balances character and plot well, but in the end, I just didn’t think there was enough plot in this book – no more than what’s on the flyleaf, really – to sustain a whole novel, and I’m a person who greatly prefers character driven novels. I think Solace might have worked better as a longer short story, about the length of Claire Keegan’s beautiful and moving Foster. I’ll definitely take a look at anything else McKeon writes, however, but though I tried, this book really didn’t do it for me.3/5 (The three stars are for the character of Tom Casey.)Recommended: In general, no, not unless you like books that are fairly static.You can read my book reviews and tips for writers at

  • T P Kennedy
    2019-06-12 22:02

    An interesting work. I'm not sure that it lives up to the billing and the hype surrounding it. Some of the characterization is excellent - particularly Tom Casey. The book really comes alive when he's around. Other characters, though, seem to be mere ciphers to play a specific plot role. The sense of Dublin and students is good. The evocation of tragedy and the sense of solace are excellent but a little marred by various melodramas.

  • Kay Bambury
    2019-06-19 15:45

    A little depressing with a disappointing finish

  • Ian Young
    2019-06-01 22:46

    Solace is a novel about loss and the difficulty which so many people have communicating about important issues, particularly across generations. It is set against the background of Ireland in the early part of this century, at a time when rural areas continued to cling to traditional values and ways of life while brash modern Ireland epitomised by the Dublin property boom gradually began to impinge. Mark Casey is a PhD student in Dublin, struggling with his thesis after losing enthusiasm for his work. He is writing about a Victorian novelist who lived near the small farming village where he was brought up – she once seemed important to him, but now seems irrelevant and lacking in interest. His parents, particularly his farmer father, cannot really understand what he is doing and why he doesn’t come home more regularly to help run the family farm. In reality, Mark hates the farm only a little less than he has come to dislike his academic work, and avoids going home as much as possible. In Dublin, Mark meets Joanne who comes from close to his home and whose family have ties to his own, though not good ones. Like Mark, she also has a badly damaged relationship with her parents. They quickly embark on a passionate relationship which is shattered by a tragic accident, and much of the book is concerned about how Mark deals with the aftermath of this.Solace is a novel which is beautifully written and with a strong sense of place, particularly in relation to the farming and rural scenes. Right from the beginning there is a sense that something has gone badly wrong – the book begins with a section from relatively late in the story line before flashing back to tell events from the start. It is a serious novel – the story is downbeat and there is little to lift the mood – but a rewarding one to read. The ending is an open one, so don’t expect a nicely rounded conclusion. The characters are convincing, and there are some very moving sequences. There were scenes when I felt that a key revelation was about to come, a pivotal episode or phrase which would get to the core of the novelist's intention, but it never quite seemed to happen. In the end I felt that this was deliberate – because failure to communicate is probably the most important theme of this novel. For instance, Joanne writes a message in a book of Mark’s, thinking that he will discover it at some future date, but he never does. And when Mark visits one of Joanne’s old lecturers there is a strong sense that something important is about to be revealed, which never quite materialises.Overall then, a strong first novel which should appeal to readers of literary fiction, and a young Irish writer to watch with interest.

  • Joyce Hendricks McCague
    2019-06-16 21:45

    I did not like this book. I found it very dry and boring. I almost gave it one star but decided to go with two because there were a few chapters here and there that held my interest. I found myself at first skipping sentences, and then glossing over paragraphs because in my opinion, there was more description than dialogue and the description was overdone and much of it unnecessary. Without giving anything away, I would have preferred the tragedy take place earlier in the book and have more story on how Tom and Mark deal with the tragedy. I feel the way the author dealt with the tragedy was hurried.

  • Emily
    2019-06-05 21:49

    Very disappointing. Mark Casey is a selfish and unlikeable character. I felt the story skimmed over parts were I would have liked more detail, such as Mark & Joannes relationship and then gave too much detail on other parts like Marks thesis which I didn't find interesting at all and once I had finished the book I didn't see the relevance of it all.

  • Marc Faoite
    2019-06-02 20:35

    I picked this up and put it down so many times. Somehow, try as I might, I just couldn't get into this book. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood, or the right life. I have to confess I abandoned it barely half read, unable to face picking it up again.

  • Kat
    2019-05-31 19:50

    Didn’t like this quite as much as Tender even though the plot probably resonated more (Mark feeling the weight of his father’s expectations regarding the farm when he wants to pursue a life of academia removed from those obligations). She frames it in such a way that (view spoiler)[you know from the prologue that two primary characters are going to die, and that the relationship between the ones left behind will be strained, so it is kind of heartbreaking to then read chapters from their point of view knowing what lies ahead – that their hopes are somewhat meaningless. But it does end hopefully (hide spoiler)]. For a debut novel it is extremely accomplished – there’s a lot going on, a lot of themes at work, but she keeps it all under control and with zero excess (if anything there could have been a bit more – I would have liked to have seen Joanne interact with her mother, for instance. Maybe. Maybe I would have liked that.) She is particularly good at evoking university life and the early stages of relationships. I love McKeon’s style!This was the kind of worthy thing you did on a date early on, when you were still trying to impress each other, still telling each other stories about the kinds of people you were… And later, if you got to that later, you would see through those stories that you’d told each other, but by then it wouldn’t matter, either because you no longer cared about each other, or because you really did, because you no longer cared about anything else.

  • Aine
    2019-06-03 19:46

    Having moved to Dublin, Mark is still writing his thesis as he approaches 30. Most of the time he is able to resist the demands of the family farm in Longford, but there are many weekends he must return to bale hay, test animals and deal with his father's resentment of his urban life. Joanne has also escaped to the capital, to become a trainee solicitor, away from the neglect and hostility of her family. Mark and Joanne fall in love as the Celtic Tiger begins to whimper, and the country around them is full of change.This is a beautifully-observed and essentially-Irish story of love and family in contemporary Ireland. It describes a point in history where the traditional of the family farm is becoming financially unviable, and the resulting changes in the characteristics of many Irish families. Tom and Maura's relationship is beautifully told, as is Mark's relationship with each of his parents. Described accurately and, sometimes, uncomfortably, it is these relationships rather than the plot that propel the book forward. Joanne and Mark are a tale of contemporary Irish families, and love in an Ireland that is more self-defined than ever before. Well worth a read.

  • Danielle
    2019-06-07 14:39

    The book deals with the interplay between the generations, between town and country people and a simpler older world and the new world.Well written, the characters and well developed and interesting. Mark's indecision about so many aspects of his life set against the simplicity of views from both his parents work well. His relationship with Joanne who is training to be a solicitor is beautifully covered. However, as is inevitable, things change and "accidents" happen - can any solace be found?Well worked book which I enjoyed in both its simplicity and its depth. If I have a complaint it might be that the prologue gave rather more away to me than maybe I would have liked.

  • Iuliana
    2019-06-07 23:01

    This is a very easy book to read and i really enjoyed the first half of the book. I liked the characters of Tom and Mark, but didn't care much for Joanne. I found the wrong parts of the story were developed, i.e. Joanne's case, Mark's thesis as well as the story around Joanne's former lecturer. I found these didn't serve as much purpose as possibly intended, and i found myself wanting to skip through to the parts where something actually happens.I found the ending weak and I was annoyed at times with the author's opinions, because they were clearly the author's opinions as opposed to the character's opinions.

  • Katie
    2019-06-11 15:47

    I really enjoyed this.I am 16 and wanted to try a book for the older as I enjoy them more. Once I got into it, I tried to read at every chance I got. McKeon is incredible at recognising small details of human expressions. Some might say it is slow-paced, but I felt the gradual build of the plot was done well. I loved the characters- even though there were quite a lot! The ending was a little sudden, there could have been at least another chapter added to conclude everything. Thus, this book receives 4 stars.

  • Trena
    2019-06-11 20:42

    This book was very interesting to me as I knew the places in it.unusual as its a small one street town in rural Ireland . The story was beautifully written and identifies strong emotions on many levels which an translate across all nations. I don't think you have to be Irish to get The city v country the generational/cultural context of this book .

  • Miriam
    2019-06-18 21:40

    It's McKeon's sympathetic portrayal of the varying points of view of her characters that stays with me the most. Father and son, husband and wife, mother and son, mother and daughter and the young couple caught up too soon in parenthood and unexpected loss. There's such simple truth to the writing...

  • Terri
    2019-06-09 20:33

    Didn't like it much. The review for the book says the father and son were brought together through tragedy. I didn't see that they came together that much. It is a "relationship" book. Not really my genre either, not one I would have picked, I read it for a book club. If you like relational books with no real plot...that's all I'll might like this book.

  • Sonia Howell
    2019-06-09 15:03

    Didn't love it.

  • Mary Crawford
    2019-05-20 16:40

    Three and and a half stars. This novel of family relationships, rural versus urban, tradegy and life in Ireland has some great chapters but a few story lines that did not go anywhere and left me wondering why they were included. The rural descriptions were really good as was the development of Mark and Joanne's relationship. Mark's parents relationship was also really important in the story.

  • Jennifer Garner
    2019-05-27 18:35

    This is beautifully written, you know because reading it you feel the heaviness and sadness. That said, I didn't finish reading it. It is a slog. The author came to Irish evening, thus this book was on our list. I am told that it is like all Irish writing, just depressing. Still there are characters and a story that is memorable, even if I didn't finish the book.

  • Rhea
    2019-05-28 17:47

    Sad. True. Irish.

  • Bonnie Brody
    2019-06-15 18:02

    Solace, by Belinda McKeon, is a novel about love and longing. As a noun, `solace' means to find comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness. As a verb, it means to give solace to someone else or oneself. This book is about people who find solace in the small things of this world and find it difficult to talk about the bigger things. They hang on to what they know, especially when they face tragedy or their worlds turn upside down.Tom and Mark are father and son. Tom works his farm in Ireland and Mark is working on his doctorate at Trinity University in Dublin. Tom finds it difficult to understand a life that does not consist of working the land and he finds it very difficult to understand his son. Mark comes to his father's farm when he can to help out, usually on a weekend. There is a huge emotional distance between them and they often end up fighting. Maura, Mark's mother, tries to smooth things out but the gap between father and son is huge.Mark meets a woman in Dublin named Joanne. Unfortunately, there is bad blood between Mark's father and Joanne's deceased father. This makes the relationship difficult for the family dynamics. When Joanne becomes pregnant, issues rise to the surface and even more distance is felt between Tom and Mark.The novel takes place in the mid-2000's when Ireland is just beginning to go from a booming country to a place of poverty. What was once a land of opportunity for everyone is becoming a place where housing values are decreasing, unemployment is rising, and large companies are moving out of Ireland to cheaper venues.Mark has been working on his dissertation for several years without much success. He chose to work on the topic of a woman writer who lived near his father's farm and to assess her writing and relationships with other writers of her time in a new way. His thesis advisor is not impressed and Mark makes one false start after another.Symbolically, these false starts are similar to the attempts at conversations that Mark and his father have. They start and stop, try to meet one another at some common ground but fail. When tragedy befalls both of them, Tom becomes very dependent on Mark but Mark distances himself even further from his father, burying himself in his studies.The prologue opens with Tom and Mark alone on the farm with a baby girl named Aiofe. There are no females present and Aiofe is very enamored of her grandfather. Tom takes Aiofe with him on errands he has to do in town and ends up in a grand discord with Tom who did not know where his daughter was. No matter how they try to bridge their distance, they fail. They can find no solace in one another when they are faced with tragedy or pain.The solace that they have comes from what is familiar to each of them. For Tom it is his farm and the land, and for Mark it is his child and his studies. We readers sadly watch the fumbling attempts they each make to reach each other and the increasing distance that occurs. At one point, Tom gets a cell phone and attempts to call Mark several times a day. Mark makes it a point not to answer and Tom keeps calling.This is a story of a father and son, of rural Ireland trying to maintain its identity, and the difference between living in a city and living on a farm. Tom can't understand cities and Mark abhors life on a farm. The book is very well-written but at times it goes very slowly, losing the pace that it might have carried. Belinda McKeon is a playwright and there is that sense of discourse in this novel. She has an MFA from Columbia University and this is her debut novel. She is a very promising novelist with a poetic sense and a gift with words. I especially love her characterization of Tom and Mark. I look forward to her future work.

  • Marleen
    2019-06-08 22:51

    Mark Casey is a doctoral student in Dublin, struggling to find any enthusiasm for the thesis he is supposed to be writing while also trying to balance his father’s demands for help on the Longford farm with his own needs. While the gap between Mark and his father appears to be getting wider, his mother tries to keep a fragile peace between the two men.Joanne Lynch is a trainee solicitor and the daughter of a man Mark’s father has considered an enemy ever since he was wronged by him twenty years ago.When Joanne and Mark meet at a party the attraction is instant and before long they are in the middle of a love affair. With their relationship still in its early stages, Joanne finds herself pregnant and before they’ve had a real chance to get to know each other, Mark and Joanne find themselves the parents of a baby girl.Just when the new family are starting to find their feet and some balance in their lives, disaster strikes. In the subsequent months both Mark and his father have to reassess their lives and priorities in an effort to keep on living and moving forward.This was a quiet and unsentimental story, although the emotions and feelings of the main characters are firmly at the centre of it. While the content of the story has all the makings of an emotional roller-coaster, the subdued tone in which the story is told means that those emotions are only implied. The reader has to dig deep to actually feel the love, pain and despair which the characters have to be going through in the context of the story.This book deals with the contrasts between life in the city and in the country-side, between the traditional expectations of the older generation versus the hopes and dreams of the younger. The story succeeds very well in describing live and relations in small Irish towns, where everybody knows everything about everybody and nothing ever stays hidden. It also gives a realistic picture of the devastation a big loss has on a person’s life and how such a loss can lead to confusion about what is a priority or even what is normal behaviour.I had a few, minor, issues with the story. For starters, I could at no point while reading sympathise with Mark. From the start of the book I wanted to tell him to grow up, make up his mind, make a decision and stick to it. For a 30 year old man he had very little idea of what he really wanted and never seemed to be able to make a real decision. I also wasn’t entirely sure about the ending of the book. It seemed to me that nothing had been resolved when I closed the book and that the issues that had been introduced at the start of the story where still unresolved.Having said all of that, I was intrigued by the story, its characters and their lives. The characters were almost too realistically human in that they just muddled on and didn’t really face up to the issues in their lives. And the book was very well written. The language is beautiful and the words flow in such a way that I had a hard time putting the book down.This is an ambitious and well written novel and a very promising debut by an author I know I will be following from now on.

  • Lisa de Jong
    2019-06-16 18:48

    I purchased this book for selfish reasons. A friend recommended it to me adding that my short story reminded him of it. I did not want to reciprocate any love; I just wanted to study it. And there I was with a fine-toothed comb ready to underline dialogue technique, similes and character developments – and that I did, that I did. What I did not expect was to obliviously fall into the trap of becoming emotionally involved with this story, like slowly being sucked back in by an ex – something only stellar novels achieve of the self-proclaimed strong and independent woman that I am.Solace is the modern day story of a young Irish couple who are trying to find their paths in life. Both raised in the country, they meet in Dublin, become “no strings attached” romantically involved and then life decides to have its ways with them. It looks at interesting themes like contemporary Irish dating protocol, the difficulties of establishing a career, high prices of the city, keeping distance from parents and many more adults encounter in their 20s and 30s.Truthfully speaking, it’s a slow moving novel and incredibly descriptive for which I can be a bit impatient at times. It makes reference to a lot of things Irish and of Dublin more specifically, so having lived there definitely helped me to identify with the plot. There were moments where I questioned the direction of the story and considered it almost too boring but after some patience I came to realise that such descriptions and background settings were necessary and quite apt considering Irish culture, where many issues are still considered taboo and therefore avoided in conversation – if you know what I am trying to say here. McKeon never shocks the reader and allows for maintenance of comfort and flow by subtly addressing these topics. Her technique is compelling.The novel addresses several social issues from unplanned pregnancy and homosexuality to bereavement and even money. It considers how individuals and families cope with them and how men manage differently to women. McKeon very eloquently delivers powerful messages that are very true to Ireland today. She builds vivid settings with minimum storyline allowing for the smallest twist to achieve deep impact, which if you are in any way sensitive will have you engaged.Towards the end and after some reflection I noticed some major character developments and even some nice parallels between them and the different stories that progress. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope that I even learned something new about writing technique as was my initial intention. It is definitely a book I would consider reading again, which for me is a big deal.

  • Noll
    2019-06-05 16:01

    Oh, this book. This book was beautiful. I bought it months ago, to represent Longford in my Irish Counties Challenge, but for some reason it took me until now to get around to reading it. I even started it, once, around the time of purchase, and then put it back down. Perhaps I was waiting until I was in the right frame of mind. This is a subdued, almost melancholic extract from the intersection of several familial lives - primarily between farmer Tom Casey and his PhD student son Mark. It uses the common Irish cultural theme of traditional older generations (particularly those rural, small-towns) clashing with the aspirations and modern progression of the young as a broad backdrop to the more specific ins-and-outs of life for the Casey family, from the lead up to massive changes in their lives through a tragedy into the aftermath. The slow-paced, gentle writing itself is a stark contrast to the events of the novel, and I think this makes those events oddly both more shocking, and also easier to process.There were a couple of points in this book which made me cry - and I will note here that I was in a fairly low frame of mind reading this, so it was pretty easy to make me cry, and I think my heightened emotional state exaggerated the impact this book had. That is not to say that the book itself is not powerful, it is, but it is a book you have to be willing to wade into and immerse yourself in. At least one of the moments that made me cry was a tentatively happy one - a description of Mark and Joanne tucking themselves away at home from the miserable weather with a subdued, almost melancholic kind of contentment on New Year's Eve.I feel like McKeon has an insight into how different people think, and even more importantly in novel-writing, an ability to wholly and accurately convey the conflicts and emotions of being human in an unpredictable, sometimes tragic world. I'm a little biased because this is an Irish novel, set in the rural farmlands of Longford and the bustling city of Dublin, contexts which are culturally, if not directly, familiar to me, and the lyrical pose combined with a lilting pace which talks about how the Irish never talk (definitely an Irish trait), but I like to think this book could pull anyone in. I wasn't overly mad about any of the characters in particular, but I felt this book is more driven by emotions than by the characters experiencing them.I am absolutely dying to read her second novel, Tender. Also, look at that cover. The painting continues round the back cover to show Dublin city off in the distance. Beautiful. Highly recommended. The book, not the cover. Enjoy.

  • Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
    2019-05-22 20:38

    This review first appeared on my blog: is the story of a generational and cultural divide between a father and his son. It is also the tale of a binding tragedy and the gulf of loneliness between them in today's Ireland, slowly sinking into poverty and hardship.Tom is a farmer, married to Maura, a nurse. They have two grown children, Nuala, who is married and lives far enough off that her family rarely sees her, and Tom, who lives in Dublin, a perpetual student who has been working on his thesis for far too long, with a professor whose patience with him is running thin.At the beginning of the novel, we can tell something very bad has happened - the kind of something bad that makes everyone treat a person with overabundant kindness and kid gloves. We then journey back to read about the events that led to this.Tom is a stubborn, taciturn, hard-working farmer who is disappointed that Mark doesn't want to farm the land that will be his one day. He does not consider Mark's studies important (after all, he should have been done some time ago), and does not understand why Mark won't come down more often to help.Mark is impatient with his father, and quietly resentful of Tom's attitude towards his studies and his demands on his time. When he meets a young woman named Joanne, and she quickly becomes pregnant, he is finally thrust into the role of a grown-up, but the situation with his father worsens because Joanne is the daughter of a man who perpetrated a great wrong against Tom, and the bad blood between the families simmers hot even now.Although the writing here is impeccable, the story has quite a few places that could have been tightened down a bit; I found myself wanting to skip ahead to where something actually happens. The tension between Tom and Mark is exquisitely and painfully captured, but at the end of the book, I felt vaguely dissatisfied. I wish Tom could have been more fleshed-out, and I felt that there was no true resolution.QUOTE (from a galley; may be different in final copy): ..when she told him she was keeping the baby, he was stunned by the relief that coursed through him. It was ludicrous, wanting it so much. He had no job. He had no money. No away of providing for a child. And with Joanne, he barely even had a relationship. The had been sleeping together for not much more than a month; how could she be pregnant?Book Rating: 3.5 out of 5 starsSensitive Reader: Some sex, profanity, and sexual references; however, there are no graphic sex scenes.

  • Lindsay
    2019-05-30 21:37

    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.

  • Ian
    2019-05-30 15:48

    In Belinda McKeon's prize-winning first novel, Mark Casey is a doctoral student writing a thesis on the 19th-century novelist Maria Edgeworth. As with many students who toil over a long-term academic project, Mark has grown weary of his subject and doubtful of both his argument and his career prospects. His search for distraction takes him to pubs and parties, at one of which he meets Joanne Lynch, a lawyer in training. Mark and Joanne fall in love, and their relationship is solidified when Joanne quickly becomes pregnant. Before all of this Mark's life was already complicated, financially tenuous and bristling with emotional landmines. His parents live on the family farm in the Irish midlands. Mark, an only son, does not particularly enjoy farm work but, as infrequently as he can manage without seeming spiteful or neglectful, makes the trek from Dublin to visit with his mother and to help his father, Tom, with chores that the older man can't manage on his own. Joanne is from the same town as Mark, and years earlier Tom and Joanne's father had business dealings, which turned out badly for Tom Casey. Even though Joanne's father is long dead, Tom's resentment persists. When the baby, Aoife, is born, a sort of reconciliation takes place. Tom grudgingly accepts Joanne and Aoife into his life. Then tragedy strikes. Mark and Tom, left alone with each other and Aoife, are forced by circumstance to set aside their pride and differences and learn how to be truthful with themselves and with each other. The drama at the heart of Solace builds slowly. It smoulders rather than explodes. Belinda McKeon is not afraid to spend entire chapters setting the scene. Inevitably, some readers will grow impatient. However, this is a novel that probes human motivation fearlessly and minutely. The emotions it evokes are raw and vivid. The prose, often spellbinding, is rich with moments of astonishing beauty. Undoubtedly the chorus of Irish literature includes many accomplished voices, but with her first novel Belinda McKeon makes a convincing case for herself as an important new voice, one well worth listening to.

  • Jim
    2019-05-24 17:52

    A debut novel of love and loss set in contemporary Ireland, where a family’s troubled past cast its shadow over an uncertain future. Looking for a distraction from writing his stalled thesis, Mark Casey falls for a green-eyed girl he meets at a pub. Joanne Lynch, however, is more than a pretty solicitor trainee, she comes from the same patch of rural farmland in County Longford where Mark grew up. The son of a demanding and truculent farmer, Mark resents the time he must take away from his studies at Trinity College to help out at the family farm. That his thesis is going nowhere only adds more strain to his relationship with his father. Joanne is caught in a similar bind. Her late father was a notorious scoundrel whose dodgy dealings earned the enmity of the Casey family, but Joanne is ignorant of the feud. As the new couple navigates their complicated pasts, Joanne becomes pregnant, igniting the fuse to the powderkeg the young lovers have unwittingly created. Midway through the novel, an act of horrendous violence brings the two families together in unexpected ways. Though not quite Romeo and Juliet, McKeon makes masterful use of the conflict between the two families to propel the story forward and gird scenes of ordinary family drama with tension and dread. Digressions into Joanne’s legal work and the subject of Mark’s thesis--the novels of Irish author Maria Edgeworth who also hails from Longford--prove to be welcome asides that add depth to the characters. For instance, Joanne’s infatuation with her client’s eccentric mother, a woman she only knows through court transcripts, suggests that Joanne might be better-suited to the scholarly work that Mark seems incapable of finishing. Mark’s struggle with his father takes on undertones of William Faulkner and Joanne is as nuanced and knowable as the heroine of an Edna O’Brien novel. Solace is an engrossing, highly rewarding read that marks McKeon as a writer to watch.