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

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Also, Fortune(Peepal Tree Press) , by Amanda Smyth, another historic novel, a clandestine love story set amid Trinidad’s early oil drilling years in the 1920s. As ever, the Nobel laureate is exploring the messy mysteries of emotion, memory and what it is to be human: the book makes a fascinating companion piece to his 2005 novel Never Let Me Go. I enjoyed Hugo Hamilton’s The Pages (Fourth Estate), narrated with verve and ingenuity by an actual book, a novel by Joseph Roth, which got saved from the Nazi bonfire and then taken on a picaresque journey across the Atlantic and back to Germany. The handsome man Clara watches and tries to outsmart is Liam, now weathered and a self-declared misanthrope escaping the misery of a marriage that sputtered along years too long. Not only was it the good choice I had expected for my own personal reasons, it exceeded my expectations in so many ways.

Angry, rebellious Rose, had a row with their mother, stormed out of the house and simply disappeared.Recent headlines include Lucky Strike As Teen Catches Big Pike, Family Literary Day Reminds Us Of The Value Of Reading and Kerns Township Experienced A Good Year. Sally Rooney, who was nominated for the Booker for her 2018 novel Normal People, was overlooked by judges for her third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which is out in September. Liam’s sense of isolation is well drawn, as is the pain he feels over his imminent divorce, and Lawson does well to steer away from cliche when a mutually suspicious relationship forms between him and Clara.

Lawson's writing is clear and emotive; and while the balance between the missing Rose and Elizabeth's past falls somewhat off kilter as the novel progresses, Clara remains its most compelling character.I truly believe that attention is the most sacred resource that we have to spend on this planet, and books are perhaps the last places where we spend this resource freely, and where it means the most. Toward the end of her story, we learn about her connection to Liam in his younger years, and their bond, which ends in catastrophe. There was good character development, good plot development, some beautiful sentences and some touching moments.

The human condition yes, and the time spent understanding it’s nuance to be able to portray it through words, both those used and those left unsaid. Rose and her parents are not central characters, and the mystery of Rose’s disappearance is not allowed to take over the narrative. Through Clara’s perspective we observe how confusing childhood can be when adults put so much effort into lying and withholding truth from them. Striving to quell memories and her “savage love,” she revisits the collapse of the “quiet, comfortable, sheltered life” she led with her husband. After settling down, she wrote short fiction for women’s magazines and then graduated to her first novel.

It’s totally possible to read it without acknowledging the depth, but when you become aware of it while reading, it suddenly became that much more exciting a read. 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. Burntcoat (Faber) by Sarah Hall is in the vanguard of a new genre of pandemic/lockdown fiction: the connections between isolation and creation are laid bare in a disquieting dystopia of the not-quite-now.

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