Chatto & Windus| 18 February 2021| 294 pages| Review copy| 5*
It was a complete pleasure to read A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson. I loved the clarity of the narrative, focused on three main characters, each perfectly distinct and finely described and the sense of location in a small town is excellent.
It’s set in North Ontario in 1972, but looks back to events thirty years earlier when Elizabeth Orchard first met Liam who was then a small boy of 3 when he and his family lived in the house next door. The last time she saw him he was still only 4 years old. It was not a happy time for either of them, and thirty years later, when she is dying she wants to make amends and gives him her house.
Clara lives next door to Elizabeth, who she loves, and she is alarmed when she sees Liam moving into Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth had given her a key and she goes in every day to feed Moses, Elizabeth’s cat. She has no idea that Elizabeth is dying and is furious when she discovers that Liam is moving Elizabeth’s things and packing them in boxes. Her life is in turmoil in any case as she is devastated that Rose, her 16 year old sister has gone missing.
The narration moves between these three people, seeing events through their eyes. Elizabeth, in hospital looks back over her life, remembering her despair at not having a child of her own, and her love for little Liam that ended badly, despite her good intentions. Clara spends the time before and after school at the window looking out for Rose’s return and Liam, whilst remembering his sad childhood, is trying to rebuild his life after his marriage ended in divorce.
I loved this book. It’s about families, the things that go wrong, about memories and about friendships and the care that people have for each other. It’s moving and sad, but also filled with hope. And it’s beautifully written.
Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.
3 thoughts on “A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson”
I do like those stories that span over time like that, Margaret. It can really show character development, and that’s what it sounds like here. And it takes a skilled author to explore sadness, but also hope, too. Glad you enjoyed this so well.
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I’ve not read a Mary Lawson book yet that I didn’t enjoy. I’ll look for this one!
I’m reading this now having recently come across this author and liked the sound of her writing. And delighted to see her being longlisted in the Booker Prize so many more are likely now to discover her work. Lovely review thank you.
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