A Town Called Solace was longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize and was one of a few on the list which caught my eye, so I bought myself a copy. I hadn’t read anything by this author before and I thought it was just wonderful. First, let’s find out what the book is about.
About the book
Clara’s sister is missing. Angry, rebellious Rose had a row with their mother, stormed out of the house and simply disappeared. Seven-year-old Clara, isolated by her distraught parents’ efforts to protect her from the truth, is grief-stricken and bewildered.
Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, moves into the house next door, a house left to him by an old woman he can barely remember, and within hours gets a visit from the police. It seems he’s suspected of a crime.
At the end of her life Elizabeth Orchard is thinking about a crime too, one committed thirty years ago that had tragic consequences for two families and in particular for one small child. She desperately wants to make amends before she dies.
Set in Northern Ontario in 1972, A Town Called Solace explores the relationships of these three people brought together by fate and the mistakes of the past. By turns gripping and darkly funny, it uncovers the layers of grief and remorse and love that connect us, but shows that sometimes a new life is possible.
Mary Lawson tells her story through the alternating perspectives of the three narrators detailed above. I thought that she captured the voices of all three beautifully, particularly since they are such different ages. I found Elizabeth’s story especially moving, as she looks back on regrets from years past but also recalls the great love she shared with her late husband, Charles. Young Clara is sweet and wiser than you might expect for her years but in other ways exactly as you would expect a young child to be: confused and worried by the difficult situation surrounding her missing sister. Liam is a character who grew on me. Despite expecting to stay just long enough to sell the house he has been left, the town and its inhabitants get under his skin and begins to feel like home.
The northern Canadian small town setting is portrayed so well, with the hold it has on the hearts of its inhabitants. Despite being a typical small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business almost before they know it themselves, it’s also a place where neighbours look out their own.
A Town Called Solace is a novel written in a very elegant style and I found it so compelling. The town and its people found its way into my heart. It’s a tender portrayal of the connections between the beautifully drawn characters and the solace they bring to each other. A Town Called Solace is a deceptively simple yet captivating novel and I highly recommend it. I definitely be seeking out Mary Lawson’s previous novels.
About the Author
Mary Lawson’s first novel, Crow Lake, was loved by critics and readers all over the world; it was translated into 25 languages and published in 28 countries. It was a New York Times bestseller, won the McKitterick Prize and spent 75 weeks on the bestseller lists in her native Canada. Her second novel, The Other Side of the Bridge, was longlisted for the Booker Prize and selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club. Road Ends, published in 2014, was described by the New York Times as ‘tender and surprising . . . a vivid and evocative tale’. A Town Called Solace, published to critical acclaim in February 2021, was an instant bestseller in her native Canada. Mary came to England in the 1960s, and lives in Kingston-upon-Thames.