Sunday, 28 August 2011

Book of the Week - Belinda McKeon, Solace

Solace is a first novel from Irish author Belinda McKeon. She was born in 1979 and grew up on a farm in Co. Longford. She studied English and Philosophy in Dublin, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York and in Ireland. Her writing has been published in a number of literary journals including The Paris Review, The Dublin Review and Irish Pages, and has been included in a couple of anthologies (Fishamble Firsts: New Playwrights (New Island, 2008) and The News from Dublin: New Irish Stories (Faber, 2011)).

Solace was published in the US by Scribner earlier this year, but the UK edition has just been published by Picador. It has been named a Kirkus Outstanding Debut of 2011 and has been nominated for the Newton First Book Award. Reviews are positive – I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but will review elsewhere when I get a chance. There is a genre of Irish literary fiction typified by Colm Toibin and John Banville into which Solace seems to fit and which I enjoy very much. It is much too early to say whether McKeown will have a successful future, but I think this is a book well worth picking up at £12.99 (signed).

“Mark Casey has left home, the rural Irish community where his family has farmed the same land for generations. He is a doctoral student in Dublin, a vibrant, contemporary city full of possibility. But to his father, Tom, who needs help baling the hay and ploughing the fields, Mark’s pursuit isn’t work at all, and they are set on a collision course, while Mark’s mother negotiates a fragile peace.
To escape the seemingly endless struggle of completing his thesis, 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 – and who he later discovers happens to be the daughter of a man who once spectacularly wronged Mark’s father, and whose betrayal Tom has remembered every single day for twenty years.
Joanne too has escaped the life circumscribed by her overbearing father, and she is torn between the opportunities to succeed in this new wealthy Dublin and the moral dilemmas it presents. But for a brief time Mark and Joanne are able to share the chaos and rapture of a love affair, an emotional calm, until the lightning strike of tragedy changes everything.”

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