Top positive review
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An Intense and Involving Read
on 5 June 2012
Belinda McKeon's debut novel 'Solace' is set in present day Ireland, and is essentially a love story; however, at its heart, this novel focuses on the emotional ties between parents and their children. Mark Casey, a post-graduate student at Trinity College, Dublin, is working towards his doctorate and writing a dissertation on the writer Maria Edgeworth, a nineteenth century author who lived near to Mark's family home at Longford, where his father, Tom, has a small farm. Tom, who has only ever wanted to farm, outwardly accepts the fact that Mark needs to study for his doctorate, but he also feels strongly that between his periods of academic work, Mark should spend as much time as he can back at home helping him on the farm. In consequence, Mark finds himself torn between feelings of guilt, responsibility and duty to his father and the need to assert his independence and to live his own life.
Trying to cope with the pressure of delivering an urgent chapter of his thesis and also visiting the farm to help with the hay-making, Mark finds himself becoming stressed and in an effort to relax, he decides to have yet another night out with his friends instead of finishing the chapter of his essay. Across a crowded pub in Dublin, Mark sees a young woman, Joanne Lynch, and is instantly attracted to her - and although the last thing Mark needs right at this moment is to fall in love, it seems that neither of them really have a choice in the matter and before long Joanne and Mark are spending practically all of their free time together. However, things are not straightforward because Mark soon discovers that Joanne is the daughter of the man who was the cause of a bitter rift between the Casey family and the Lynch family and Mark's father is not about to either forgive or forget. And then a tragedy occurs which has life altering consequences for all involved - but I will not say more for fear of spoiling the story for prospective readers.
This is a moving, graceful and quietly powerful story of love, loss and family loyalties where Belinda McKeon demonstrates a precision and a certain wisdom in her writing that belies her reasonably youthful age. She has the ability to reveal deep and complex emotions and writes about loss and grief without becoming overly sentimental which is not always an easy thing to accomplish, making this an absorbing story and certainly one to ponder upon. I found this novel an intense and involving read and have no hesitation in awarding it 4 stars, however I would just like to add that this book does have a rather sombre and melancholic tone, so it is not a book I would recommend if you want a light or uplifting read.