My favourite book of the year so far is also the discovery of a new author to love. A Town Called Solace is the fourth novel by Mary Lawson. The previous three have been nominated for, and won, many awards and much acclaim. I’m not sure how I have overlooked her but I’m now planning to catch-up.
Such a quiet book with a powerful emotional punch, the story is set in a solitary lakeside town in northern Canada in 1972. It is a story of mistakes made and paid for, longed-for recompenses, the complexities of child/parent relationships and how things can so easily go wrong. Most of all it is about deep love, understanding and forgiveness. Told through the experiences of three people – eight-year old Clara, widow Elizabeth who is seriously ill in hospital, and Liam who appears one day and moves into the house next door to Clara’s family.
Clara has a key to Mrs Orchard’s house next door so she can feed the shy cat Moses and spend time playing with him so he won’t be bored alone. Clara prefers this to being at home because her older sister Rose has run away and her parents aren’t telling her the truth of what is happening. We learn Elizabeth’s story as she lays in bed struggling to breathe, remembering her life with husband Charles and a wrong she committed decades earlier which she still fiercely defends. Liam has recently split with his wife, left his job as an accountant, and comes to the town of Solace to take possession of a house, a surprise inheritance from someone he knew long ago. These three stories are wound together with builder Jim, policeman Karl, library assistant and ice cream maker Jo, and the sullen waitress at the Hot Potato cafe.
Like my favourite authors – Elizabeth Strout, Anne Tyler, Penelope Lively, Jane Smiley – Lawson has the ability to write about complex emotions with an easy style set in everyday situations that are believable, that could be happening to you, or someone you know. I immersed myself in the story, only towards the end did I appreciate Lawson’s deft plotting and subtle management of character. She writes about the ugliness of human behaviour with a beauty that helps you to understand the human dilemma, to look at the whole picture and see the person behind the actions.
A novel to treasure.
BUY THE BOOK
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A TOWN CALLED SOLACE by Mary Lawson #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5lF via @SandraDanby