By Belinda McKeon
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781451610543, 336pp.)
Publication Date: May 17, 2011
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Belinda McKeon’s Solace is an extraordinarily accomplished first novel—a story of a father and son thrown together by tragedy; one clinging to the old country and one plunging into the new. Set in an Ireland that catapulted into wealth at the end of the twentieth century and then suffered a swift economic decline, this is a novel about the conflicting values of the old and young generations and the stubborn, heartbreaking habits that mute the language of love.
Tom and Mark Casey are a father and son on a collision course, two men who have always struggled to be at ease with each other. Tom is a farmer in the Irish midlands, the descendant of men who have farmed the same land for generations. Mark, his only son, is a doctoral student in Dublin, writing his dissertation on the nineteenth-century novelist Maria Edgeworth, who spent her life on her family’s estate, not far from the Casey farm. To his father, who needs help baling the hay and ploughing the fields, Mark’s academic pursuit is not man’s work at all, the occupation of a schoolboy. Mark’s mother negotiates a fragile peace.
Then, at a party in Dublin, Mark meets Joanne Lynch, a lawyer in training whom he finds irresistible. She also 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.
After the lightning strike of devastating loss, Tom and Mark are left with grief neither can share or fully acknowledge. Not even the magnitude of their mutual loss can alter the habit of silence. Solace is a beautiful and moving novel by one of the most exciting new writers to emerge from Ireland.
Belinda McKeon, an award-winning playwright and journalist, was born in Ireland in 1979 and grew up on her parents' farm. She studied literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and worked as an arts writer for The Irish Times. McKeon has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia and lives in Brooklyn with her husband.
"Solace is an elegant, consuming and richly inspired novel. Like all good stories, it's a love story. It just so happens that it's also lovingly told. A superb debut. This one will last."—Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
“Solace is a novel of quiet power, filled with moments of carefully-told truth. Belinda McKeon demonstrates a real wisdom in this book which will appeal to readers both young and old, and a command of style and structure which will make this a much-loved and a treasured book by readers everywhere.”—Colm Toíbín, author of Brooklyn and The Empty Family
“A story told with clear-eyed compassion and quiet intelligence about what it is to grow up and grow away, about the difference between 'here' and 'home'. Solace lives up to its title: this is a lovely debut.”—Anne Enright, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Gathering
“Intensely controlled, this fine first novel brought to my mind the performance of a talented young dancer whose steps and movements are flawless.”--Ursula Le Guin, The Guardian