Solar Bones by Mike McCormack reviewed

that time

that time when

and then there was that time when I went to see Les Misérables in the cinema, and I hadn’t seen the stage version so I wasn’t familiar with it other than hearing Susan Boyle sing I Dreamed a Dream on that terrible talent show and making me cry, so it took a while to realise that the entire film

entirely in its entirety

was sung

all of it, sung

and I didn’t think I would be able to see it through to the end, especially with Russell Crowe bleating away like a distressed goat, but I did and I enjoyed it, so I was reminded of that time again when I started reading Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, and a few pages in I suddenly recalled that I had read a review somewhere saying that the book, all 223 pages of it, was one sentence

from start to finish

and all the bits in between

a single, book-length sentence, and I didn’t think I would be able to see it through to the end, but I did and I enjoyed it, despite finding it hard to keep apace with at times, being the story of Mayo man Marcus Conway, who waits at the the kitchen table for his family while recalling his life in a confused stream of consciousness, telling us that he is a regular guy, an engineer and spoiled priest who has tried, though not without trip ups, to live his life as a good husband, father, son and citizen,


photo (49)
Worldly pleasures in the form of Solar Bones, a latte and a custard tart, sitting in the coveted window seat of Cork Coffee Roasters



in much the same way that your concentration lapses when someone launches into a lengthy monologue in real life, so too did I find it difficult at times to cling on to the breathless running thread of Marcus’s story, punctuated by Angelus bells and hopping back and forth between memories of his tough nut father

(although their relationship and his dad’s mental deterioration in his final years made for some of the most affecting passages)

to the sharing of his concerns about his bright but low-achieving son Darragh and worryingly intense artist daughter Agnes, mingled with observations about the similarities between religion and civil engineering,

I have attended so many of these ribbon-cutting ceremonies, stood out of shot with my hands folded across my chest, I sometimes allow myself the belief that I have given my life to something which has been on the side of human betterment, an idea which takes hold of me with such insistence that the part of me which needs to have faith in things starts seeing it as a religious vocation with its own rituals and articles of faith not to mention a reckoning in some vaulted and girdered hereafter where engineer’s souls are weighed and evaluated afer a lifetime’s wear and tear in the friction of this world

and the good versus evil fight between the noble engineer and the corrupt politicians who put undue pressure on good men for their own ends, sending Ireland’s Tiger economy down the swanee

and that’s always my problem with something



that while beautifully written, deftly balancing the minutiae of small-town Ireland and huge metaphysical topics, stylistically it had a distancing effect – on me, at least, because I don’t particularly like experimental fiction and couldn’t decide whether it was ingenious or infuriating to make the reader long for a full stop – yet I have to say that I found McCormack’s final passages incredibly moving, so ultimately I agree that, though it wouldn’t suit everyone’s taste, this is a unique and courageous piece of work by a skillful writer, and another interesting find by hot talent spotters Tramp Press


One more thing

photo (47)I have vowed to read more than I have been getting around to of late, and have acquired a stack of must-reads which I plan to work my way through and review this summer. I was inspired to apply myself by Cathy Brown’s excellent 746 Books blog, which is great to follow if you love all things books-related. Cathy has set herself a #20BooksofSummer challenge (and then there’s the 746 book challenge that gave the blog its name) and is reviewing each one as she goes along. I’m calling my own less ambitious challenge the slightly less catchy but hugely inventive #SomeBooksofSummer. It is on – to some extent.

#SomeBooksofSummer 1 of 7


3 thoughts on “Solar Bones by Mike McCormack reviewed

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