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!Free Ebook ♷ Solace ☩ 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 parties His is a life without focus or responsibility, until he meets Joanne Lynch, a trainee solicitor whom he finds irresistible Joanne too has a past to escape from and for a brief time she and Mark share the chaos and rapture of a new love affair, until the lightning strike of tragedy changes everything Very disappointing Mark Casey is a selfish and unlikeable character I felt the story skimmed over parts were I would have likeddetail, 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 Very disappointing Mark Casey is a selfish and unlikeable character I felt the story skimmed over parts were I would have likeddetail, 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 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 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 poignant The aging and ailing academic, Clive Robinson, was also nicely fleshed out I wished fordetail about the time that Joanne spent as his student, and felt that that would have lent her characterdimension As it is written, there isn t much that supports Robinson and Joanne s connection beyond the fact that she was inspired by a book from his syllabus Mark Casey I found to be self absorbed and thoroughly unlikeable He egregiously neglects his parents, his girlfriend, his daughter, and his shoddy, ill conceived thesis.Mark and Tom suffer a terrible loss, their weak adversarial relationship is tested andremains weak Where is the solace in that 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. A little depressing with a disappointing finish I cannot for the life of me figure out why McKeon does not getattention 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, orprecisely, 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 Solace, the debut novel from Irish poet and playwright Belinda McKeon, which has been getting a lot of attention lately, is a family drama, orprecisely, 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 working farmer in County Longford in southern Ireland Tom is a man whose education and interests are quite limited He knows all about honor, though, and loyalty and responsibility There are those who would do well to take a leaf or two from Tom Casey s book, even though he isn t, by any stretch of the imagination, perfect And while Tom loves his family fiercely, like the old fashioned man he is, he also expects them to obey In Tom Casey s house, Tom Casey s word is law.The person Tom understands least is his own son, Mark, who, as the book opens, is down from Dublin for the summer with his young daughter, Aiofe, to help his father with the baling of the hay The two men eye each other with suspicion and mistrust Tom sees Mark as sullen, while Mark resents Tom s attentions to Aiofe That strange to American ears name seems to be pronounced ee FA In the book s opening pages, we get a sense of the strained relationship between Tom and Mark, and we also get the sense that something significant has happened that affects, not just these two men, but the entire Casey family It isn t what s said it s what s unsaid It s in the looks the local shopgirls give Tom and Aiofe as they make their purchases And this isn t the first time those looks have been given It was as familiar to him by now as the sight of his own eyes in the bathroom mirror, the look that he had caught on their faces fear and thrill and greed and pure excitement a glimpse right into the wreckage on the side of the road.After presenting us with the prologue, McKeon moves the reader back in time to the events that set her story in motion, back to Mark s days as a student at Trinity College in Dublin Unlike his father, Mark never had any use for rural life, and he was relieved to leave the farm for Dublin and Trinity But Mark doesn t really fit in with big city life, either He s a PhD candidate, writing a thesis on the work of Maria Edgeworth, a writer who was from the same part of Ireland as Mark, and whose family s former ascendancy estate now houses the hospital where Mark s mother, Maura, used to work as a nurse Like many grad students, Mark finds he s late turning in the next chapter of his thesis in fact, he s pretty much lost interest in school and would rather drift along, drinking beer and frittering away his time.Mark s life changes when he meets pretty, green eyed, trainee solicitor, Joanne Lynch, who just happens to have grown up very close to Mark s family s home More outgoing that Tom, andenergetic, Joanne might seem, at first glance, to be just what Mark needs in order to turn his stalled life around There s a huge problem, however Joanne s late father was a real scoundrel, a swindler, and one of the persons he swindled was Tom Casey And Tom Casey still bears a grudge against the Lynch family, a grudge that will come into play when Mark and Joanne embark upon an intense love affair, one that quickly produces the couple s daughter, the charming Aiofa This ancient grudge theme is a familiar one in Irish literature It s been done before, and I really can t say it s done best in Solace It isn t Edna O Brien did a far better job working with the ancient grudge theme in Wild Decembers, for example And if one wants the best example of a continuation of the parents feud one need look no further than Shakespeare s Romeo and Juliet.The ancient grudge and the continuation of the parents feud, however, aren t the main themes of this novel The father son relationship, and the divide between the rural traditional and the city progressive ways of life always take center stage Joanne even has a small subplot that revolves around the parent child relationship, around family inheritance and family responsibility, but this subplot isn t as developed or as significant as it could have been.To tell you that a tragic event takes place just past the midpoint of this book probably isn t going to come as any surprise It s been foreshadowed in this review, and that s only because McKeon foreshadows it so strongly in her book Far too strongly, I think I was surprised that the author gave so much away so soon, given how subtle she was in her writing regarding other things, e.g., a physical fight between Tom and Mark.One professional reviewer characterized the tragedy that befalls the Casey family as one which even Hardy might have found it difficult to deal I can t agree with that My goodness, has the reviewer not read Jude the ObscureThomas Hardy wasn t afraid to tackle any tragedy, and while the bereavement in Solace is truly terrible and truly tragic, it s not something that s unique to the Casey family That doesn t mean I didn t care I did At least I tried to It does, however, mean that the book isn t as fresh and original as it could have been In some ways, I thought McKeon was taking the easy way out There were so many other ways, ways that hadn t been done to death, to throw Tom and Mark, and even Aiofe, together and test their relationships and their boundaries.Three very different characters Mark, Tom, and Joanne function as point of view characters in this novel While I thought Tom was particularly well drawn, I can t say the same for Mark and Joanne Joanne s a likable girl, filled with energy and spirit We know too little about Joanne, though, her deeper feelings about Mark and Aiofe and her own parents I have to admit, I didn t like Mark at all He seemed downright childish and hateful when he observes, with much disdain, that Tom doesn t even know the meaning of ignorant and when noting another farmer s talk about global warning I don t need to like every character I encounter in a novel In fact, sometimes the ones I don t like are the most interesting And there s the rub Not only is Mark unlikable, he s extremely dull and uninteresting as well Nothing, not even Joanne or Aiofe seems to awaken a spark of passion in this fumbling, callow, and self centered young man While reading, I was always anxious to leave Joanne s and Mark s words behind and get back to Tom s The very best thing about Solace is the character of Tom Casey Now, Tom is definitely not dull and callow In many ways, Tom is very ordinary and unremarkable He s a hard working man who adores his young granddaughter and finds it difficult to get along with his grown son, a son who has very different ideas about life and how it should be lived Tom, though, possesses a vitality, and yes, even a charm, that all of the other characters in Solace lack I felt the uniqueness of Tom, the genuineness One of the novel s best and most genuine scenes revolves around Tom as he s first taken aback by one of Aiofe s tantrums, then finds the whole thing laughable, then dissolves into tears, the tears he had been, until that point, unable to shed It s the character of Tom Casey who brings this book to life He s just a magnificent creation.As unlikable as I found Mark, I did like the way McKeon refused to judge her characters All of them are, in their own way, greatly flawed human beings, and fallible, never wholly right and never wholly wrong This refusal to judge reminded me of Kent Haruf s beautiful novels Plainsong and Eventide, both of which I loved, and of course, of William Trevor, though McKeon definitely isn t on par with either of those great authors I m not saying she couldn t be in the future, just that she isn t there yet despite the praise Solace has received.The prose in this novel is adequate, but except for snatches here and there, not great I did like McKeon s understatement, and I thought it fit well into the Irish tradition of John McGahern, Brian Moore, and William Trevor, for instance But unlike those giants of Irish literature, McKeon seems so afraid of falling into sentimentality that she almost completely avoids any expression of emotion, leaving her book rather flat and monotone, and failing, most of the time, to engage at least one reader The stark tension and pinpoint focus of the prologue, which really is wonderfully written, is sadly lost in stale jokes and too many details for the balance for the book.And there s altogether too much telling in this novel as opposed to showing A prime example is a physical altercation between Tom and Mark This should have been a raw, visceral scene, but McKeon fails to give us any of that raw emotion Then he Tom went deep, went fast, moved as though on ice through convolutions of his own invention, through spirals that could not be anticipated and could not be stopped he was fluent, exhilarated, alight.It s pretty, though chilly, writing, but it leaves one uninvolved, and one of the fiction writer s highest goals should be to involve the reader as much as possible Except for Tom, and then not all the time, McKeon s understatement left me unable to connect with this novel, unable to work up much caring one way or the other about things even though I really wanted to care Sometimes raw emotion even sentimentality is a good thing One just needs to use it sparingly.McKeon does have a wonderful gift for description Her snapshots of rural Irish life in County Longford are both charming and intoxicating It had been a beautiful summer s evening It had been hard to want to be anywhere else, looking out at the meadows stretching golden against the sunset, and at the small lake beyond them, and at the bruised blue and grey of the hills on the horizon.And lest the reader forget that this is Ireland in crisis, in the midst of a financial meltdown Inside those houses on those hills were people, and people made everything difficult tripped over one another and tripped one another up.While the romance between Mark and Joanne felt inauthentic, and therefore failed to move me, I was moved by McKeon s images of life in rural Ireland For example, a frosted tractor window that looks like it s not one pane of glass but a thousand tiny chips, held together for one last moment within the square of the frame, could also be a metaphor for the fragile depiction of human relationships and human life found in this book It was a beautiful image and one I won t forget I was also moved by Maura Casey as she regards the sexual adventures of the young with a mixture of envy and exhaustion Now that s real humor Gentle humor Grown up humor as opposed to Mark s cruder expressions, which I didn t enjoy at all.McKeon balances character and plot well, but in the end, I just didn t think there was enough plot in this book nothan what s on the flyleaf, really to sustain a whole novel, and I m a person who greatly prefers character driven novels I think Solace might have worked better as a longer short story, about the length of Claire Keegan s beautiful and moving Foster I ll definitely take a look at anything else McKeon writes, however, but though I tried, this book really didn t do it for me.3 5 The three stars are for the character of Tom Casey Recommended In general, no, not unless you like books that are fairly static.You can read my book reviews and tips for writers at literarycornercafe.blogspot.com Didn t like this quite as much as Tender even though the plot probably resonatedMark 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 you know from the prologue that two primary characters are going to die, and that the relationship between the ones left behind will be strained, so it is kind of heartbreaking to then read chapters from their point o Didn t like this quite as much as Tender even though the plot probably resonatedMark 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 you know from the prologue that two primary characters are going to die, and that the relationship between the ones left behind will be strained, so it is kind of heartbreaking to then read chapters from their point of view knowing what lies ahead that their hopes are somewhat meaningless But it does end hopefully hide spoiler For a debut novel it is extremely accomplished there s a lot going on, a lot of themes at work, but she keeps it all under control and with zero excess if anything there could have been a bitI would have liked to have seen Joanne interact with her mother, for instance Maybe Maybe I would have liked that She is particularly good at evoking university life and the early stages of relationships I love McKeon s style This was the kind of worthy thing you did on a date early on, when you were still trying to impress each other, still telling each other stories about the kinds of people you were And later, if you got to that later, you would see through those stories that you d told each other, but by then it wouldn t matter, either because you no longer cared about each other, or because you really did, because you no longer cared about anything else 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 wantedof those I liked the sub plot about the eighteenth century author, Maria Edgeworth and was eager for it to be wovensatisfyingly 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 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 wantedof those I liked the sub plot about the eighteenth century author, Maria Edgeworth and was eager for it to be wovensatisfyingly 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 looked away, to the baby again, and they were focused tight in on her as though on a button they were trying to unfasten pulling the white cap back down on her head, taking the little hands and hiding them under white cotton cuffs, touching the tiny, crumpled face and willing it to smooth contentment And at that kind of willing, that kind of wishing, they would spend, probably, most of the rest of their days Those first years, when he was small, there was pleasure just in watching him among the animals, the fields, the sheds that, before him, had only meant work or money To see this boy stride around the farm, even if he was hardly taller than the sheepdog, even if he was in short trousers and red wellingtons, even if had a head of curls like a girl even for all this, the sight of him there was like a prayer lodged in the mind and answered with every thought Mark could see his reflection in the glass against the darkness he looked hard faced, he thought, wild haired, his shoulders hunched..He looked like one of the farmers who lived nearby.The same way of walking, the same way of standing, the same way of looking up slowly and assessing whatever met their eye a woman, an engine, a sky And a final one Faced with this silence that was Keogh s kindness, he felt only light and bloodless, emptied of himself and of everything that fixed him to his standing He needed something to shoulder against, something at which to pitch himself, muscled with the old fury, with the old contempt But there was nothing 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 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 them is full of change.This is a beautifully observed and essentially Irish story of love and family in contemporary Ireland It describes a point in history where the traditional of the family farm is becoming financially unviable, and the resulting changes in the characteristics of many Irish families Tom and Maura s relationship is beautifully told, as is Mark s relationship with each of his parents Described accurately and, sometimes, uncomfortably, it is these relationships rather than the plot that propel the book forward Joanne and Mark are a tale of contemporary Irish families, and love in an Ireland that isself defined than ever before Well worth a read