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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  968 ratings  ·  136 reviews
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 pa ...more
Hardcover, 341 pages
Published August 5th 2011 by Picador (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  968 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Barry Pierce
Oct 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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
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 loo
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 poi
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
Do yourself a favour - skip this and read Tender. McKeon really comes into her own in her second novel about a woman who goes to Trinity and falls in love.

It may also just be that books about Irish sons + Irish fathers may just not be my thing, after reading this and John McGahern’s The Dark.

Did not like main male characters, found them insufferable, especially Mark. Story was dull and I kept waiting for a point - it never happened. Women were great but did not get a big enough role.
Kay Bambury
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
A little depressing with a disappointing finish
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I cannot for the life of me figure out why McKeon does not get more attention from American literary circles. There is enough room for her and Rooney! This was a lovely book and reminded me so much of my rural, Michigan upbringing. That said, her accurate description of PhD work gave me PTSD so I didn’t like it as much as Tender! ;)
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-wor
Eoin McGrath
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Didn't resonate with me as much as Tender, but still wonderful. I'm also not going to slag off Belinda. ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
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) ...more
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 t ...more
T P Kennedy
Aug 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Joyce Hendricks McCague
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 stor ...more
Marc Faoite
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Kathleen Flynn
Sad but wonderful.
Emer  Tannam
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was incredibly beautiful, sensitive, and heart-breaking. I can’t wait for her to write another one.
Lisa de Jong
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Molly Ferguson
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-lit
4.5 stars. This was a beautiful novel - I loooove Belinda McKeon's writing. I liked the way she used the prologue to shape the framing of the central losses of the book, and how the narration slips between perspectives seamlessly. This novel is very sad, though, so if you like novels about grief (which I do) you will like it, but if not it will be beautiful and painful for you. I really related to Mark as he struggled to write his dissertation, especially after having a baby! McKeon captured tha ...more
May 27, 2018 added it
“Solace” should probably be titled “Lack of Solace.” Even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, the main characters, father and son, neither give solace nor get it. These characters are unlikeable, neglecting others and living mostly inside their own heads, and the pivotal scene is out of everyone’s control, making it seem contrived. And yet, I enjoyed the book. The author writes compellingly without trying too hard, the family dynamics seem plausible and at times even familiar, and both the urban ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've just finished this one & overall, I really liked it.
Having read some of the criticisms in other reviews here - under-developed characters / plot-lines, Mark as unlikable etc.. - I suspect a larger knowledge of the technicalities of constructing a story exists among readers here, than I myself possess (I simply love reading), so I base my rating of this debut on my general feeling for the novel and though I do admit some few moments of disappointment, these were minute and did not affect the
Tessa Ayubi
Jan 16, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is good, but I just didn’t enjoy the book. It’s overall uneventful and I found it boring, it was a bit like a background story with no main event, just day to day life with depressing additions.
Iuliana Naughton
Sep 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
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
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rece ...more
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 . ...more
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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... ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sad. True. Irish.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Part coming-into-manhood story, part father/son relationship saga, part commentary on the urban/rural, intellectual/agrarian splits in Irish society, but none of these things fully, this novel has received much critical praise, and much of it is deserved. The story focuses primarily on Mark Casey, a perpetual student torn between his loyalty to his dissertation topic, even though he rather loathes it, and his loyalty to his parents and their farm, even though he rather loathes it too. The father ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first Belinda McKeon book I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. The story is a little like what might have happened to an older version of the couple in Normal People - they live in Dublin but are from the same rural place, some of it is set in Trinity, the male character is doing post-graduate English. It seemed more universal to me than Normal People, more relatable family situations and dynamics, less chips on shoulders. The father son relationship is arguably the most central one in ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Irish Readers: OCTOBER READ - Solace - Finished - May Contain Spoilers 9 24 Nov 28, 2011 01:06AM  
Irish Readers: OCTOBER READ - Solace - No Spoilers 9 23 Nov 02, 2011 05:08AM  
Irish Readers: Solace - An Introduction 6 16 Oct 13, 2011 12:45PM  

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Belinda McKeon’s debut novel Solace won the 2011 Faber Prize and was voted Irish Book of the Year, as well as being shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Her second novel, Tender, will be published in the US by Lee Boudreaux Books in February 2016.

Her essays and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, the Paris Review, the Guardian, A Public Space and elsewhere. As a playwri

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