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Solar Bones

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,492 ratings  ·  492 reviews
the Angelus bell
ringing out over its villages and townlands,
over the fields and hills and bogs in between,
six chimes of three across a minute and a half,
a summons struck
on the lip of the void

Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said in Ireland that the dead may return. Solar Bones is the story of one such visit. Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer, turns up one aft
...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published May 5th 2016 by Tramp Press
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Frank Parker Yes. I loved that the pips before the one o'clock news at the end of the book brought us full circle back to the Angelus bell at the beginning. I had…moreYes. I loved that the pips before the one o'clock news at the end of the book brought us full circle back to the Angelus bell at the beginning. I had to go back and re-read the first couple pages for the sheer pleasure of that aspect.(less)
Kevin Tole To lope is not to run but to move in a loose-jointed kind of almost shambolic as if not quite to mean it kind of way. Its the perfect word to describe…moreTo lope is not to run but to move in a loose-jointed kind of almost shambolic as if not quite to mean it kind of way. Its the perfect word to describe the cattle and their calves having broken through from their normal grazing into some kind of new found pasture and to be roaming around the once gardens of the disused hotel.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,492 ratings  ·  492 reviews


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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Doug
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
this

this book

this book just

won the prestigious Goldsmiths Prize, given for innovation in the novel form, which is what impelled me to read it in the first place, and I sort of wish I had finished it prior to its winning, because now it will look like I am just being contrary that I really didn't like it since a lot of people did, although the main reason apparently that it won is that it is purportedly one long 223 page sentence, but

the only reason that is so is because the bloody author d
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Paula Kalin
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of beautiful prose and experimental form
Recommended to Paula by: Booker, Goldsmiths
Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award, winner of the 2016 Goldsmith Prize, and the 2017 Booker nominee, Solar Bones is a stunning and beautifully written novel.

Set in a small Irish town, Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table on All Souls’ Day and reminisces about his life. Thru a stream of consciousness, he reflects on every day life ranging from his work as a civil engineer to politics and the economics of earlier and present times. He is a ordinary and moral man with a lovin
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Maxwell
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After you get used to the writing style of this novel—it's technically all one sentence, no full stops—it's quite a beautiful read. It's told from the perspective of one man on a single afternoon as he reflects on his life, his marriage & children, his work, politics, and a lot of other big topics. But it's a very human novel. I admired it's ability to take philosophical views and ground them in one person's experience; it became very relatable and moving. I think this novel deserves a re-re ...more
Hugh
I had already bought a copy of this book before the Booker longlist was announced, because it won the Goldsmiths Prize and was well received by reviewers whose opinions I trust.

The whole book is a single sentence monologue, which tells quite a conventional story of a mid-life crisis but is rather more interesting than that would suggest, since the topics it covers are wide-ranging and universal. The narrator is a middle-aged engineer, who works for a local council in Mayo. I was aware that ther
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Hannah
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Wonderfully and intricately structured in a way that demanded my full attention this is a portrait of a man's life told in a single contemplative hour. Mike McCormack tells his story in a single sentence without proper punctuations and in places bending the rules of grammar to the limit - and it works absolutely beautifully. This lends the prose an immediacy and a poignancy that mesmerized me. This quiet novel tells of a quiet man - an engineer thinking about his life and the things important to ...more
Jaidee
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: insightful middle aged blokes
Recommended to Jaidee by: Lee
3 "much to admire but only kinda liked" stars !!

First of all a big thanks to Lee M. who recommended this book to me. I know he carefully considers which books to recommend to me and I am glad he did this one (remember three stars is a good book to me !)

This book has won and been nominated for a number of awards and I can understand why. The book is written in an open stream of consciousness way with no periods but lots of commas. It carefully delves into the inner life of a middle class middle a
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Emer
July 2017
What a difference a year makes!!!! Since this was picked up by a UK based publishing company it became eligible for the Man Booker Prize and subsequently has made the long list for 2017. THIS IS A FANTASTIC BOOK!!!! It is a book that stays with you and haunts your soul. I'm firmly rooting for it to win.

----


24th November, 2016

Do you ever feel like a complete idiot and just want to rewrite an entire review??? That's how I'm feeling about this particular review! I got things so wrong. I w
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Dianne
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional, stellar writing in this little gem, but the structure makes it a bit of a chore to read.

Marcus Conway reflects on his life in the kitchen of his house in Mayo, Ireland on All Soul’s Day. His reflections are represented in a stream of consciousness, which is basically one long, lovely, and remarkable sentence. Just as we do in our own reminiscing, one thing leads to another and Marcus’ memories progress in leaps and bounds across time and space, covering his entire life and all of h
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Peter Boyle
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
How appropriate that the narrator of Solar Bones is an engineer. This novel is quite the feat of engineering itself, written in a stream of consciousness with no full-stops and only the odd comma to punctuate the flow of thoughts. This might sound like a showy literary gimmick but it works brilliantly and I can see why the book has been nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize, an award which seeks to promote fiction that breaks the mould.

Set in a small Irish town on All Souls Day, Marcus Conway sits
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I wanted to read this book when I read its description; I don't think I would have pushed through to the end if it hadn't been on the Man Booker Prize Long List.

To me, it suffers from what many experimental novels do - too much experiment with no clear purpose. I have read many stream of consciousness works. Most memorable to me (and the least known) is the first chapter of Narcopolis, something I probably could have read for the entire work but the author decided to step back from it and just w
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Anni
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the first time since reading David Foster Wallace that I have found any work of fiction to compare for a mind-blowing literary experience of the first order.
After the first few pages you will forget there are no full stops - although there are natural pauses ... and it all works beautifully.
There is so much good stuff pouring out of Ireland lately, but this surely must become a modern classic to rival Joyce etc.

Here is my (edited for spoilers) review for www.whichbook.net :-

Set in post
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Viv JM
This book certainly takes stream-of-consciousness to a whole new level, with not a full stop in sight! I was initially a bit wary, thinking I would find the lack of punctuation and meandering style irritating but I didn't at all and, in fact, I found it rather lovely to read. The family felt so real by the end of the book and it definitely stirred my heartstrings. I hope this makes the Man Booker shortlist, and I would be happy to see it win.
Paul Fulcher

" this is how you get carried away
sitting here in this kitchen
carried away on an old theme, swept up on a rush of words and associations strewn out across the length and breadth of this country, a hail of images surging through me while at the bottom of the page another story of how"


Now Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award
Winner of the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize
Shortlisted for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize
Ineligible for the 2016 Booker Prize (https://www.theguardian.
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Roger Brunyate
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
 
Stream of…

First off, DON'T READ THE BLURB on the back cover of this book, or the description above! In its third line, it gives away something that Mike McCormack takes 200 pages to reveal, something that I see as the main point of the entire novel.** Instead, open at the first page and let McCormack's poetic language work on you:
the bell
   the bell as
   hearing the bell as
      hearing the bell as standing here
      the bell being heard standing here
      hearing it ring out through the grey
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Meike
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award
It is amazing how this text turns the life of an everyman - "husband, father, citizen" - into poetry! McCormack portrays what is mostly considered too common to make it the heart of a story, and in a way, he celebrates the life of those who make up and sustain our societies: Average people.

There are already many interesting and eloquent reviews of this book, so I'd like to restrict myself to challenging one notion that has been frequentl
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Canadian Reader
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland
I found this to be a beautiful, rich, and rewarding book. On the surface, SOLAR BONES presents a middle-aged man's reflections on his work and family life. The meditation unfolds one early afternoon in November—the month of All Souls, when ghosts restlessly flit about—while the man is alone in the house he's lived in since he married 25 years ago.

Marcus Conway is an engineer with a metaphysical bent. In due time, the reader learns that his original intentions had been toward the priesthood. Hav
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Gumble's Yard
Now deservedly the winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award.

I first read this book when it was shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmith Prize, an award it deservedly went on to win. My original review is at the end of this review.

At the time there were two side issues that caused some debate

A) Had it been overlooked for the Booker or was it in fact not eligible

B) Why was a major plot revelation included on the back cover blurb (see below) and not either included in the book or omitted e
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Kathleen
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Man Booker Longlist 2017. Brilliant! It is November 2nd, All Souls’ Day when Catholics pray for the souls in purgatory and the dead return to walk the earth. The Angelus Bells ring out and we meet the narrator Marcus Conway sitting in the kitchen of the home he lived in for most of his life. He was a civil engineer in rural Ireland—in Louisburgh, near Westport, in the County Mayo—married to the schoolteacher Mairead and father of two grown children that confuse him. Agnes is a performance artist ...more
Makis Dionis
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guiness
Ο Ιρλανδός Μάρκους Κονγουει είναι μηχανικός. Με το μυαλό του μηχανικού προσπαθεί να βάλει τη ζωή του σε τετραγωνάκια και να καταλάβει τις γραμμές που προεξέχουν έξω από αυτά. Όχι πως δεν τις δέχεται. Απλά του φαίνονται καθόλα μη αρμονικές. Χαρακτηριστικό αυτού η σκηνή όπου λίγο πριν το Τέλος, βρίσκει απρόσμενα ένα μισάωρο για τον εαυτό του και κορυφώνει συγκλονιστικά τις απορίες και τις ενστάσεις του για τη ζωή στο εδώ και στο μετά
Producervan in Cornville, AZ from New Orleans & L.A.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack. Kindle Edition. Tramp Press. ©2016.

Tramp Press is a publishing company founded in Dublin in 2014 and is an independent publisher that specializes in Irish fiction.

Magnificent. This is by far the best work of adult fiction I've read this year, in fact in several. (And I have read some great ones!) A rare insightful look inside the mind of a family man from County Mayo. A stream-of-consciousness novel like James Joyce; poetic, spare, passionate. Surprising. A brilli
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Joseph
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modernism, irish
Marcus Conway hears the bell of Angelus while sitting at his kitchen table waiting for his wife to come home on All Soul's Day. He speaks to the reader in a stream of consciousness remembering his town and past. Marcus is a middle-aged civil engineer with a lifetime of stories and struggles. He sees the world from the point of an engineer, and it provides a split in his world. Much like modernism's creation when the world broke in two, Marcus' world is also deeply divided. Politicians and engine ...more
William
Aug 31, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rejected
Thoroughly obnoxious stream of dull thoughts. DNF
Eric Anderson
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's easy to scoff at literary fiction which experiments with form given our existing canon of literature which is already packed full of wildly eccentric novels. Everyone from Virginia Woolf to Samuel Beckett to Gertrude Stein to William S Burroughs to Eimear McBride has twisted not only conventional grammar but the shape of the story on the page to say something new about the experience of life and art. So a novel that is one long continuous sentence which lasts more than two hundred pages may ...more
Neil
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
FURTHER UPDATE: On reflection, I think I have made a complete fool of myself with comments about the blurb. I now think that the blurb on the back is quite possibly the cleverest thing about it. The author has set the scene and the atmosphere for his book without using any of his novel to do it! He wants you to know what is explained on the back, so you do need to read it.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I have discovered that you should ignore my warnings about the blurb. The author wants you to rea
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Robert
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Now the winner of the 2018 Dublin Literary Awards

Solar Bones is notorious for two things. One is that the book is comprised of one 223 page long sentence and that there's the famous 'spoiler' if you have the Tramp Press edition (which I have, the Canongate edition omits the spoiler). Oh and it won the Goldsmiths prize First of all don't let the one sentence thing bug you. McCormack still uses paragraphs, however they are connected with words such as then, but, when etc so it's readable. Secondly
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Barbara
I bought this book last summer on a book buying spree in Belfast - 3 bookstores and Tesco's in one morning! I didn't get to it right away, and when it was the April read for my book club, wasn't able to attend the meeting nor finish the book. However, I was pulled in immediately by the story, and strong sense of place in the novel, which is set in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. The title shows up early in this phrase: “rites, rhythms and rituals / upholding the world like solar bones”.

This
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David
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this 2 stars because I've read worse. And, also, if I allowed myself to fully comprehend how much time and energy I just wasted on getting through this book, I would have to commit seppuku. Today I choose to live!

Strike One: A major plot element is portrayed erroneously.

Crytposporidium is neither coliform (a bacteria) nor a virus. It is an enteric pathogen of the parasitic class. (And, no, "viral parasite" isn't acceptable either.). McCormack's insistence on classifying "crypto" as a
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Pink
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a pleasant surprise. After a disappointing experience with another gimmicky Booker contender (Lincoln in the Bardo), I thought this would go the same way for me. Solar Bones is a stream of consciousness, one sentence novel, which makes it sound horrific, but I found it a delight to read. I'm glad it's made the Booker Longlist and hopefully this will encourage more people to give it a shot.

What really worked, was the construction of the book and the writing. Technically it's one sentenc
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Kasa Cotugno
What happens at the threshold through which we all must pass. If it is true as has been supposed (since nobody can say for sure), one's life passes before one's eyes, details that went into forming a life come into focus, seemingly too late to make a difference. In this self elegy, Marcus Conway revises his existence, preparing him for the next level, in this extended word poem lacking the signposts of chapter endings, even punctuation. Read as a poem, it flows effortlessly, and is hard to put d ...more
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  • The Retrospective
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  • Shadows on our Skin
  • That They May Face The Rising Sun
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“something that at first sight appeared to be the luminous bones of some massive, extinct creature, now disinterred, with its ribs gathered into a neat bundle around the thick stump of a massive spinal column which time and the elements had polished to such a cool ceramic gloss that if I were to leave my hand on it I would have been surprised if it felt like anything other than glass” 6 likes
“her voice suddenly gone as if it had snagged on the mist and was carried off into the failing light, leaving the phone dead in my hand, a warm sliver with the screen fading like some luminous shard from outer space which had traveled across stellar distances at great speed to arrive here in my hand where its glow was now losing its heat, gone” 5 likes
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