A Town Called Solace: ‘Will break your heart’ Graham Norton

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A Town Called Solace: ‘Will break your heart’ Graham Norton

A Town Called Solace: ‘Will break your heart’ Graham Norton

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Many examine intimate relationships placed under stress, and through them meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or on what makes us human,” said Jasanoff.

Brilliantly written, interweaving seven different characters across various times, Bartlett’s precise storytelling pulled me in. Small Things Like These (Faber) by Claire Keegan, on the other hand, casts its gaze backward, to Ireland in 1985; its balance of crystalline language and moral seriousness makes it profoundly moving. Horrifying in another way, Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott’s Failures of State (Mudlark) is a brilliantly presented indictment of the UK’s fumbling attempt to meet the Covid challenge. It follows all the girlish intrigues, of who is the most popular, who is the prettiest, but this is no Malory Towers. If it’s not Clara breaking in to rearrange the ornaments just the way Mrs Orchard liked them, it’s police officers showing up to interrogate him about his intentions or tradesmen only agreeing to fix his roof if he’ll do most of the work himself.

They are also interested – far more than most contemporary male novelists – in the intricate family dynamics that lead to sudden departures. The past year has seen many sharp novels from younger female authors investigating how the internet influences minds, relationships and working lives, but the only example here is Patricia Lockwood’s virtuoso debut No One Is Talking About This: savagely funny on social media addiction and then truly tragic on family pain. According to Jasanoff, the books are united by “their power to absorb the reader in an unusual story, and to do so in an artful, distinctive voice”. And it’s no surprise to see Richard Powers here, previously shortlisted for The Overstory; it’s not out until September, but Bewilderment, an investigation of climate grief and the prospect of life on other planets, told through the story of a father and his troubled son, will be a strong contender. When you think of what’s won the Booker over the years, you want something that puts down a slightly fresh marker … That’s not to say you look for novelty for its own sake.

Born in southwestern Ontario, she spent her childhood in Blackwell, Ontario (located between Sarnia and Brights Grove) and is a distant relative of L. Mercilessly anatomising privilege, creativity and ambition, male-female relationships and lockdowns Covid-driven and emotional, Cusk is brutally funny and honest about shame, ego and our sense of self. But in this poignant novel, rightfully recognised by the Booker judges, the steadfastness of children brings solace to lost grown-ups. In a similar vein, Guilaine Kinouani’s Living While Black (Ebury) highlighted the severe problem of racism in the psychological professions that has hallmarked so much of our experiences in the UK, an unfortunate experience we have in common with our American cousins.Enter thirtyish Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, where he promptly moves into the house next door--watched suspiciously by astonished and dismayed Clara, whose elderly friend, Mrs. Elizabeth’s shorter accounts are set during her brief stay in a hospital; fully adult, she sees herself as “dying of boredom” and an “old nuisance” on the ward with limited tolerance for other patients. I also enjoyed the social historian Patrick Joyce’s Going to My Father’s House (Verso), a haunting meditation on Ireland and England, war and migration, Derry and Manchester.

The town of Solace is so starved of excitement that the arrival of Liam, handsome, single and brooding over the breakdown of his marriage, inspires so much twitching of local curtains that a fair breeze must be felt around the streets. Ellie Taylor opens up about going back to work after eight weeks of maternity leave: 'Feeling very grateful. Eight-year-old Clara, isolated by her distraught parents’ efforts to protect her from the truth, is grief-stricken and bewildered.

Perhaps most moving of all is Mrs Orchard, facing death, and thinking of the recent death of her beloved husband: ‘Maybe it’s a matter of tenses. The two novelists share the God-given ability to convey the complexities of human nature in everyday language. BookWorm’s Thoughts: While I really enjoyed this book and absolutely loved the character of Clara I have to say it feels too light weight for the Booker Longlist.

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