Solar Bones
the Angelus bell ringing out over its villages and townlands, over the fields and hills and bogs in between, 
six chimes of three across a minute and a half,
 a summons struck
 on the lip of the void Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said in Ireland that the dead may return. Solar Bones is the story of one such visit. Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer, turns up one afternoon at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and then brought him home again.Funny and strange, McCormack’s ambitious and other-worldly novel plays with form and defies convention. This is profound new work is by one of Ireland’s most important contemporary novelists. A beautiful and haunting elegy, this story of order and chaos, love and loss captures how minor decisions ripple into waves and test our integrity every day.

Solar Bones Details

TitleSolar Bones
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 5th, 2016
PublisherTramp Press
ISBN-139780992817091
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, Ireland, European Literature, Irish Literature, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Solar Bones Review

  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    this this book this book just won the prestigious Goldsmiths Prize, given for innovation in the novel form, which is what impelled me to read it in the first place, and I sort of wish I had finished it prior to its winning, because now it will look like I am just being contrary that I really didn't like it since a lot of people did, although the main reason apparently that it won is that it is purportedly one long 223 page sentence, but the only reason that is so is bec this this book this book just won the prestigious Goldsmiths Prize, given for innovation in the novel form, which is what impelled me to read it in the first place, and I sort of wish I had finished it prior to its winning, because now it will look like I am just being contrary that I really didn't like it since a lot of people did, although the main reason apparently that it won is that it is purportedly one long 223 page sentence, but the only reason that is so is because the bloody author doesn't use proper punctuation especially eschewing periods where they actually belong, like during dialogue scenes where he just conveniently deletes them at the ends of lines, which really annoyed me, since the lines just run on and on and on so that it is really hard to find a place to pause in one's reading, and I wasn't about to spend several hours slogging through mindnumbing repetitions in one sitting and as it was I had to constantly backtrack and re-read sections because by the time I got halfway through a thought I forgot what the hell I had been reading in the first place, although that might have been intentional because on at least three occasions the protagonist talks about how he has been driving in a car and has gone several miles unconsciously without paying any attention to the roads and finds himself at his destination with not a clue how he got there and that is more or less how I felt reading this, which is why it took me six days to get through a relatively short book I should have been able to read in two, and also the other noteworthy controversy about the book is that the back cover 'gives away' the fact that the protagonist, Marcus Conway, is actually dead, although we don't find that out till the final pages and whether that is something the reader should discover for themselves instead has been the subject of some discussion, but it doesn't really make a shitload of difference, because aside from the fact that the beginning of the book takes place on All Souls Day and apparently Marcus has come back to ponder his dreary life, which is something I kind of had to piece together from the fact that the beginning of the book takes place in March and the ending in November, apparently of the year before, but then the book skips around in Conway's mind and memory so that he IS actually alive during the vast majority of the book, and it's not like the revelation he is dead CHANGES things, a la Bruce Willis in 'The Sixth Sense', and it might have been more interesting to discover that Marcus was in actuality a squirrel, or maybe a raccoon, and because what he thinks about and talks about endlessly is less than fascinating anyway, unless one is enthralled with long descriptions of taking apart tractors or the nauseating details of a cryptosporidium epidemic with all of the concomitant talk about vomit and diarrhea, or the scintillating tension derived from whether Marcus is going to sign off on the foundation of a public building for which he is the managing engineer, that has had three different pours of concrete, so that when winter comes the foundation might crack and we get about twenty pages on that whole mess, because it is important to include one major painfully obvious symbolic metaphor, because the author is Irish after all and wants us to know he's read his Joyce and Beckett, and we get as well the details of his daughter's kooky art installations, which were at least of minor interest to me, although not much is made of those anyway, so that you are left just going around in circles attempting to derive any importance to any of this, but then maybe it's me and I am just not clever enough to figure out the point of going on and on until, like Marcus himself I just wanted to say 'stop for the love of Jesus stop talking getting carried away like this on tidal waves of nonsense'
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  • Hannah Greendale
    January 1, 1970
    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.
  • Paula Kalin
    January 1, 1970
    Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award, winner of the 2016 Goldsmith Prize, and the 2017 Booker nominee, Solar Bones is a stunning and beautifully written novel.Set in a small Irish town, Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table on All Souls’ Day and reminisces about his life. Thru a stream of consciousness, he reflects on every day life ranging from his work as a civil engineer to politics and the economics of earlier and present times. He is a ordinary and moral man Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award, winner of the 2016 Goldsmith Prize, and the 2017 Booker nominee, Solar Bones is a stunning and beautifully written novel.Set in a small Irish town, Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table on All Souls’ Day and reminisces about his life. Thru a stream of consciousness, he reflects on every day life ranging from his work as a civil engineer to politics and the economics of earlier and present times. He is a ordinary and moral man with a loving wife and two children that he remembers well. Marcus’ thoughts go back and forth from his wife’s current illness due to a county epidemic to their earlier years together. He reflects emotionally on what his children were like when they were young to where they are now as adults.All of this is done in one long sentence with exceptional prose that flows so beautifully it is mesmerizing to the reader. As I listened to the audiobook, I had no concerns as some did with reading one sentence. The novel’s structure was poetic to one listening. Tim Reynolds narration was so lovely.I will be reading more of Mike McCormack’s work.A heart-felt 5 out of 5 stars
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  • Maxwell
    January 1, 1970
    After you get used to the writing style of this novel—it's technically all one sentence, no full stops—it's quite a beautiful read. It's told from the perspective of one man on a single afternoon as he reflects on his life, his marriage & children, his work, politics, and a lot of other big topics. But it's a very human novel. I admired it's ability to take philosophical views and ground them in one person's experience; it became very relatable and moving. I think this novel deserves a re-re After you get used to the writing style of this novel—it's technically all one sentence, no full stops—it's quite a beautiful read. It's told from the perspective of one man on a single afternoon as he reflects on his life, his marriage & children, his work, politics, and a lot of other big topics. But it's a very human novel. I admired it's ability to take philosophical views and ground them in one person's experience; it became very relatable and moving. I think this novel deserves a re-read because the first twenty pages I was so focused on adjusting to how it's written that I don't think I gleaned everything that I was supposed to from the text, but fortunately it's not a long read and one that you can get lost in. So maybe someday I will return to it again. Definitely high on the list of favorites for this year's Man Booker Prize!
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  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    I had already bought a copy of this book before the Booker longlist was announced, because it won the Goldsmiths Prize and was well received by reviewers whose opinions I trust. The whole book is a single sentence monologue, which tells quite a conventional story of a mid-life crisis but is rather more interesting than that would suggest, since the topics it covers are wide-ranging and universal. The narrator is a middle-aged engineer, who works for a local council in Mayo. I was aware that ther I had already bought a copy of this book before the Booker longlist was announced, because it won the Goldsmiths Prize and was well received by reviewers whose opinions I trust. The whole book is a single sentence monologue, which tells quite a conventional story of a mid-life crisis but is rather more interesting than that would suggest, since the topics it covers are wide-ranging and universal. The narrator is a middle-aged engineer, who works for a local council in Mayo. I was aware that there was some discussion last year about an apparent spoiler on the cover of the Irish original, which does not appear on the UK Canongate edition, (view spoiler)[ which reveals that the entire story is told by a dead man who is recalling the last few weeks of his life, (hide spoiler)]. Apparently the author intended the reader to be aware of this, and there are certainly plenty of hints, not least in the opening.Given its unconventional structure, the book is surprisingly easy to read, and despite the lack of full stops there are plenty of line breaks, either to indicate reported speech or to suggest possible break points. The competition is such that I think this one is unlikely to win this year's prize, but it was an interesting one to read.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderfully and intricately structured in a way that demanded my full attention this is a portrait of a man's life told in a single contemplative hour. Mike McCormack tells his story in a single sentence without proper punctuations and in places bending the rules of grammar to the limit - and it works absolutely beautifully. This lends the prose an immediacy and a poignancy that mesmerized me. This quiet novel tells of a quiet man - an engineer thinking about his life and the things important to Wonderfully and intricately structured in a way that demanded my full attention this is a portrait of a man's life told in a single contemplative hour. Mike McCormack tells his story in a single sentence without proper punctuations and in places bending the rules of grammar to the limit - and it works absolutely beautifully. This lends the prose an immediacy and a poignancy that mesmerized me. This quiet novel tells of a quiet man - an engineer thinking about his life and the things important to him: his wife and two children; but also meditating on other things, politics, finance, art, the importance of ritual, and many things more. The flow is disjointed, jumping between times and topics and the result is a portrait of a man that feels complete but at the same time as if there could be so much more to him then even meets his inner eye.I went into this book only knowing of its structure and nothing about its plot - and I am glad I did. I loved discovering more and more of the man Marcus Conway is and how he became that way. This quiet but impactful little novel took me completely by surprise with how unpretentious it felt while reading and how much I enjoyed reading it (let's be honest here: it could have been a pretentious mess in hands less talented). I am so very glad the book is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize because I don't know if I had read it otherwise.Normally I would now give you the first sentence. But given that the first sentence is also the only sentence I will end this review with one of my favourite passages that just glows with the love Marcus has for his wife:coming upon her unawares like that, my wife of twenty-five years sitting in profile with her hair swept to her shoulder and her crooked way of holding her head whenever she was listening intently or concentrating, I saw thata whole person and their lifecohered clearly around these few details and how, if ever his woman had to be remade, the world could start with the light and line of this pose which was so characteristic of her whole being, drawing down out of the ether her configuration, her structure and alignment, all the lines and contours which make her up as the women she was on that day
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  • Jaidee
    January 1, 1970
    3 "much to admire but only kinda liked" stars !!First of all a big thanks to Lee M. who recommended this book to me. I know he carefully considers which books to recommend to me and I am glad he did this one (remember three stars is a good book to me !)This book has won and been nominated for a number of awards and I can understand why. The book is written in an open stream of consciousness way with no periods but lots of commas. It carefully delves into the inner life of 3 "much to admire but only kinda liked" stars !!First of all a big thanks to Lee M. who recommended this book to me. I know he carefully considers which books to recommend to me and I am glad he did this one (remember three stars is a good book to me !)This book has won and been nominated for a number of awards and I can understand why. The book is written in an open stream of consciousness way with no periods but lots of commas. It carefully delves into the inner life of a middle class middle aged Irish bloke who happens to be decent, caring and psychologically insightful about his history, his life, his family, his work and his developed intellectual and spiritual life. These are all interesting and wonderful things !!Yet, I cannot say, that I always looked forward to reading it. I can not quite put my finger on why this is. I think I craved more inner conflict or perhaps a bit more quirkiness of character.A book well worth reading to understand some unconventional prose for a fairly conventional character !!
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  • Emer (A Little Haze)
    January 1, 1970
    July 2017What a difference a year makes!!!! Since this was picked up by a UK based publishing company it became eligible for the Man Booker Prize and subsequently has made the long list for 2017. THIS IS A FANTASTIC BOOK!!!! It is a book that stays with you and haunts your soul. I'm firmly rooting for it to win. ----24th November, 2016Do you ever feel like a complete idiot and just want to rewrite an entire review??? That's how I'm feeling about this particular review! I got thin/>24th July 2017What a difference a year makes!!!! Since this was picked up by a UK based publishing company it became eligible for the Man Booker Prize and subsequently has made the long list for 2017. THIS IS A FANTASTIC BOOK!!!! It is a book that stays with you and haunts your soul. I'm firmly rooting for it to win. ----24th November, 2016Do you ever feel like a complete idiot and just want to rewrite an entire review??? That's how I'm feeling about this particular review! I got things so wrong. I was too caught up in the whole nonsense surrounding the blurb that I let it tarnish my reading experience and subsequently my review. But hindsight, HINDSIGHT I LOVE YOU!!!!! So readers, read the blurb on this and immediately after that read the interview with the author that I linked in the original review but then, and here's the reeeeeally important bit.....**disregard every negative thing I then said because this is a great book that is so worth your time!!** And if you do choose to read the book could you come and talk to me about it after you've read it because I reeeeeeeeally want to talk about it!!!!--------original review "drawn down into that fissure in creation where everything is consumed in the raging tides and swells, the physical world gone down in flamesmountains, rivers and lakes and pulling with it all those human rhythms that bind us together and draw the world into a community, those daily rites, rhythms and ritualsupholding the world like solar bones, that rarefied amalgam of time and light whose extension through every minute of the day is visible from the moment I get up in the morning and stand at the kitchen window with a mug of tea in my hand, watching the first cars of the day passing on the road..." ***************disclaimerThis book has a very revealing blurb that the author himself has deemed to be acceptable and contains information about the plot that he, in fact, wishes the reader to know. I will discuss this blurb not using spoiler tags in correspondence with the wishes of the author. If however you would like to know nothing about the plot of this book then I suggest that you do not read my review as to some people this may feel like a giant spoiler that could have the potential to ruin their read of this novel. ***************Solar Bones first came to my attention because of media coverage drawing light on the reasons that deem it ineligible to be considered for this year's Man Booker Prize. It is a book much beloved by literary critics and therefore cast a spotlight on the fact that to win the Man Booker Prize a book must be published by a publishing house based within the UK. Solar Bones is published by a small independent Irish publisher who cannot afford to acquire a UK imprint. So the question is put forth that is this rule unwittingly forcing authors to sign with larger publishing houses/corporations and are perhaps truly groundbreaking and individual new talents being isolated as they are not so readily picked up by larger publishers? You can read more on the debate behind this in this article in the Guardian newspaper and draw your own considered conclusions. Another reason that I decided I wanted to read this book is that it is one sentence. Yup. One big fat long sentence that lasts 223 pages!Gimmick??? Or necessary to the story??? Bit of both really! At first I loved this book. I got completely lost in it. Our main character / narrator is a man called Marcus Conway and this book is purely his thoughts. And do you know that way that your thoughts bounce from one thing to the next sometimes without stopping?? It's kind of like that. And at first it was so appealing!! The narrative flowed beautifully. The language was almost rhythmic in how it carried me as the reader along. I didn't miss the full stop! I didn't miss paragraph breaks or chapters. It truly held my attention for the first third of the book. But then I began to get somewhat tired of it. The storyline felt a little repetitive and as a reader you could see that Marcus was unable to remember past one event in his life and you were waiting for it to dawn on him that he was dead....OH NO WAIT!!!! DID I JUST GIVE AWAY A SPOILER?????? Nope!!! Apparently I did not. So that brings me to the topic of the blurb on the back of the book and the author's wishes. The blurb at the back of the book tells us from the get go that Marcus Conway is dead. But sometimes on All Soul's Day (November 2nd), the dead return to us.Okay. So you know me dear goodreaders. I ABHOR spoilers!!! But if it's the author's wishes for us as readers to know then that is his artistic right...Here's an excerpt from an article about the book interviewing Mike McCormack. (The whole article can be read here on writing.ie))The fact that Marcus is dead, however, raises an interesting question. Some reviews have avoided mentioning this as though it was a spoiler. I wondered if it was always McCormack’s intention that this would be revealed in the blurb given that it isn’t revealed in the book until the last few pages.“Yes,” he says. “I made a deliberate decision to flag that at the beginning so that it would not come as a cheap reveal at the end of the book. I like the way that it privileges the reader throughout with a knowledge that Marcus does not have … it gives the reader a hold on the situation that Marcus does not have.”So here's my issue with this "privilege". It makes for a somewhat weak ending!!!I know that having a dead main character isn't a new thing. Yes we've all read other books, seen films etc. with that twist in the tail (which I will refrain from mentioning here). But when this particular plot twist is well executed it really makes for an involving read. Even if as the reader you begin to pick up on certain signs within the book you feel more invested in the storyline, in the outcome. You want to know if your suspicions are correct. The problem with knowing in this book is that it makes for a more passive read. Yes the language is beautiful. And his stream of post-conscious thought gives a great insight into the character's soul...but I got bored too quickly. It all became a sort of oneness with thoughts that melded too much into one another. This isn't a long book by any stretch of the imagination but I felt that maybe it could have been a more interesting read if it were made even shorter. Perhaps more of a novella? I don't regret reading it as its style and content do make for interesting discussion but Booker prize worthy?I'm not sure. But then again, when do I ever agree with the critics!?!? It has, it must be noted, just been awarded The Goldsmiths Prize, an award that recognises fiction that pushes the boundaries, and despite my average rating I somewhat tend to agree! This book did certainly try to spin what is normal on its head. While I didn't feel it completely pulled off what it was trying to achieve, the style of writing must be commended and it was worth the read. Therefore, I think it is a worthy acknowledgment of a small independent publishing company that were willing to take a chance on what is different. "Diversity, the art of thinking independently together" Malcolm ForbeseditI wrote this initial review over three weeks ago and forgot to post it! I know...flakey!!! But upon reflection today I have a lot less issue with the author's decision to reveal Marcus' death on the back of the book. I think the important thing about this novel is the writing. This book = one long sentence. This book = beautiful prose This book reads so differently to anything else that I have read this year and even though my attention dragged a little, the whole premise did keep me interested. The stream of post-conscious thought from the the main character was quite emotional. I didn't focus on that in my original review because I let my hot-headed annoyance get the better of me. But when I think about the book now, for the reader to know the outcome of the story before the narrator added deeper emotion. Maybe that's why I as the reader saw the signs as to the truth and Marcus did not. Because knowing his end heightened my senses. This book was never meant to be written as a thriller or such where one expects the paranormal is at work and one is waiting on twists and turns around every page. It was just a story about an ordinary man who had to come to terms with the most ordinary of events that we all some day will experience. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Before reading this book I should have taken a moment to pause. To take a breath. To appreciate the artistic decision made and to embrace it. So even though I was so disappointed when I brought this book home from my library and read the blurb before embarking on my read, I now no longer am. Somehow what I perceived to be cheap or cowardice has turned to bravery in my mind. The light of your mind when reading this book should be firmly placed on the writing. Forget everything else. It's not important. Just let yourself fall into the gentle flow of the author's wordsfour stars
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  • Dianne
    January 1, 1970
    Exceptional, stellar writing in this little gem, but the structure makes it a bit of a chore to read. Marcus Conway reflects on his life in the kitchen of his house in Mayo, Ireland on All Soul’s Day. His reflections are represented in a stream of consciousness, which is basically one long, lovely, and remarkable sentence. Just as we do in our own reminiscing, one thing leads to another and Marcus’ memories progress in leaps and bounds across time and space, covering his entire life and all of h Exceptional, stellar writing in this little gem, but the structure makes it a bit of a chore to read. Marcus Conway reflects on his life in the kitchen of his house in Mayo, Ireland on All Soul’s Day. His reflections are represented in a stream of consciousness, which is basically one long, lovely, and remarkable sentence. Just as we do in our own reminiscing, one thing leads to another and Marcus’ memories progress in leaps and bounds across time and space, covering his entire life and all of his relationships. This is a book you need to settle into and find the rhythm and let it carry you along. It’s a tough read if you are inclined (as I was) to put it down and pick it up later.I can’t emphasize enough the beauty and power of McCormack’s writing. It’s almost poetry. Lovely, poignant, insightful and very real. I loved it but the format was challenging for me. Definitely worthy of being a Booker longlist choice in 2017.
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  • Peter Boyle
    January 1, 1970
    How appropriate that the narrator of Solar Bones is an engineer. This novel is quite the feat of engineering itself, written in a stream of consciousness with no full-stops and only the odd comma to punctuate the flow of thoughts. This might sound like a showy literary gimmick but it works brilliantly and I can see why the book has been nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize, an award which seeks to promote fiction that breaks the mould.Set in a small Irish town on All Souls Day, Marcus How appropriate that the narrator of Solar Bones is an engineer. This novel is quite the feat of engineering itself, written in a stream of consciousness with no full-stops and only the odd comma to punctuate the flow of thoughts. This might sound like a showy literary gimmick but it works brilliantly and I can see why the book has been nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize, an award which seeks to promote fiction that breaks the mould.Set in a small Irish town on All Souls Day, Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table, reminiscing about the events that have brought him to this point. Happily married with two grown-up children and a successful career, he should be content but all he feels is a piercing sadness, "a crying sense of loneliness" for his family. His thoughts drift as he waits for them to return, from caring for his wife during her recent illness, to his son's backpacker journey across Australia, to his daughter's recent provocative art exhibition. Pressure from his job gnaws at him, the recollections of dealings with corrupt politicians and impatient builders adding to his unease. If only he could see the faces of his loved ones, he would immediately feel better: "something in me would be soothed now if, at this moment, Mairead or one of the kids were to walk through the door and smile or say hello to me, something in me would be calmed by this, a word or a smile or a glance from my wife or children, to find myself in their gaze and know that I was beheld then, this would be something to believe in, another of these articles of faith that seem so important today, a look or a word, enough to hang a whole life on" This powerful novel is a composite of so many things: an affectionate depiction of rural existence, a tender portrait of family life, a frustrated state of the nation address. For me it excels in the quiet moments where McCormack finds beauty in the mundane, such as a treasured bread knife that has become blunt from years of use: "I love that we are living the kind of life where things are wearing down around us." A revelation in the final pages makes the story all the more poignant (but be forewarned that this twist is spoiled by the blurb). Solar Bones is a major achievement, a daring experiment that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can be. Bravo, Mike McCormack.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to read this book when I read its description; I don't think I would have pushed through to the end if it hadn't been on the Man Booker Prize Long List.To me, it suffers from what many experimental novels do - too much experiment with no clear purpose. I have read many stream of consciousness works. Most memorable to me (and the least known) is the first chapter of Narcopolis, something I probably could have read for the entire work but the author decided to step back from it and just I wanted to read this book when I read its description; I don't think I would have pushed through to the end if it hadn't been on the Man Booker Prize Long List.To me, it suffers from what many experimental novels do - too much experiment with no clear purpose. I have read many stream of consciousness works. Most memorable to me (and the least known) is the first chapter of Narcopolis, something I probably could have read for the entire work but the author decided to step back from it and just write the novel after doing it for about 7 pages. How I wish Mike McCormack had made a similar decision!When you don't have sentences that end and you don't use dialogue markings, you don't give your narrator a chance to take a breath. It may not seem like the narrator needs one, but actually, he or she does. See how I created breaths in the previous sentence by just adding commas? It's funny that my previous review is of a book about radio storytelling, because she has an entire section on signposts and how important they are to a listener. By creating a space to stop and think, to ponder, to absorb a difficult concept, you are engaging the listener. You are asking them to come with you on your journey. When you don't do that, then you are saying you don't give a shit and they're either going to follow you or you will leave them behind. That is unfortunate, because I think there are some beautiful moments in the prose. But I never felt like I could stop and be with them for a moment or make a note of them because the narrator was still incessantly droning on! There is an overarching structure of sorts that is spoiled by other reviews so don't read them but by the time I reached the end I'd forgotten the beginning because anything important I thought I'd read was taken over by artistic protests and pages and pages of sickness and vomit. So clearly this is not my style. I'm feeling put out at put myself through it. Depending on the mindset of this year's Man Booker judges, this one might make the shortlist because sometimes experiment is valued above other things. It does have some strange parallels to another title on the longlist - Reservoir 13, in fact I could see the events occurring at the same time, in a strange way.tl; dr - Solar Bones - most anticipated, ultimately unfulfilling.I was provided a copy by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review, based on my request.
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  • Anni
    January 1, 1970
    This is the first time since reading David Foster Wallace that I have found any work of fiction to compare for a mind-blowing literary experience of the first order.After the first few pages you will forget there are no full stops - although there are natural pauses ... and it all works beautifully. There is so much good stuff pouring out of Ireland lately, but this surely must become a modern classic to rival Joyce etc.Here is my (edited for spoilers) review for www.whichbook.net :- Set in pos This is the first time since reading David Foster Wallace that I have found any work of fiction to compare for a mind-blowing literary experience of the first order.After the first few pages you will forget there are no full stops - although there are natural pauses ... and it all works beautifully. There is so much good stuff pouring out of Ireland lately, but this surely must become a modern classic to rival Joyce etc.Here is my (edited for spoilers) review for www.whichbook.net :- Set in post recession Ireland, this daring novel pushes form and stylistic boundaries which some readers may find difficult to accept. The 'unreliable narrator' (i.e. unaware of what the reader knows) of this extended monologue relives episodes from his life in a lyrical stream of consciousnes, without full stops. Bear with it, because the emotional resonance of this form of storytelling makes for compulsive reading and is ultimately devastating in its impact.Extract:-'... that collapse which happened without offering any forewarning of itself, none that any of or prophets picked up on anyway as they were all apparently struck dumb and blind, robbed of all foresight when surely this was the kind of catastrophe prophets should have an eye for or some foreknowledge of but didn’t see since it is now evident in hindsight that our seers’ gifts were of a lesser order, their warnings lowered to a tremendous bleating, the voices of men hedging their bets and without the proper pitch of hysterical accusation as they settled instead for fault-finding and analysis, that cautionary note which in the end proved wholly inadequate to the coming disaster ...'
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    " this is how you get carried away sitting here in this kitchen carried away on an old theme, swept up on a rush of words and associations strewn out across the length and breadth of this country, a hail of images surging through me while at the bottom of the page another story of how" Now Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary AwardWinner of the 2016 Goldsmiths PrizeShortlisted for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize Ineligible for the 2016 Booker Prize ( " this is how you get carried away sitting here in this kitchen carried away on an old theme, swept up on a rush of words and associations strewn out across the length and breadth of this country, a hail of images surging through me while at the bottom of the page another story of how" Now Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary AwardWinner of the 2016 Goldsmiths PrizeShortlisted for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize Ineligible for the 2016 Booker Prize (https://www.theguardian.com/books/boo...) but republished by Canongate longlisted for the 2017 Prize (and inexplicably left off the shortlist)Set on November 2nd 2009, one year after the financial crisis has crippled the Irish economy, Solar Bones is narrated by Marcus Conway, aged 49, a civil engineer, in charge of works at the local council, but from farming stock, living in the small village of Louisburgh in County Mayo with just his wife Mairead, a teacher, his two children Agnes, a conceptual artist, and Darragh, backpacking in Australia, having both left home in recent years. My description makes this sound like a conventional novel. Solar Bones is anything but. As the opening quote suggests, the narration does not progress at all linearly, but rather the entire novel is one unbroken sentence of Marcus' thoughts, set out with minimal punctuation but instead typeset unconventionally with paragraph breaks mid sentence. These thoughts roam, by streams of association, across many topics including the financial crisis that has engulfed Ireland: world current affairs largely focused on conflicts; the death of Marcus' father: the beauty of the local countryside; the local pork barrel politics in which, as civil engineer, he is invariably enmeshed; his daughter's budding, but disturbing, artistic career, and his concern about his son's lack of vocation; and a severe vomiting bug caused by the cryptosporidiosis virus, which contaminated the local water supply, swept the local area and made his wife seriously ill. He captures beautifully the way ones thoughts roam from topic to topic, how one's mind can drift while driving familiar roads so that one arrives at the destination realising that you have no memory of how you got there and must have performed the motions of driving automatically and sub-consciously. The narration manages a wonderful mix of the relatively mundane and visionary, the domestic and the cosmic. There is a memorable set-piece, linking his engineering vocation to the way the world is held together, as he remembers his younger-self watching his father disassemble a tractor engine: "... he stood over this altar of disassembly with nothing in his hand but a single open-end spanner which he waved over the assemblage as if it were a gesture of forgiveness ... ... looking at these engine parts spread across the floor my imagination took fright and soared to some wider, cataclysmic conclusion about how the universe itself was bolted and screwed together, believing I saw here how heaven and earth could come unhinged when some essential cottering pin was tapped out which would undo the whole vast assemblage of stars..." This is an early example in the novel of the rather apocalyptic air to many of his thoughts. For example, this, from which the novel draws its title, triggered by the after images on his eyes as his computer screen fades after a skype conversation with Darragh "as if the light from the monitor had scaled them to the core, the kind of feeling you imagine you would have...." " just before the world collapses mountains, rivers and lakes acres, roods and perches into oblivion, drawn down into that fissure in creation where everything is consumed in the raging tides and swells of non-being, the physical world gone down in flames mountains, rivers and lakes and pulling with it also all those human rhythms that bind us together and draw the world into a community, those daily rites, rhythms and rituals upholding the world like solar bones, that rarefied amalgam of time and light whose extension through every minute of the day is visible from the moment I get up in the morning and stand at the kitchen window with a mug of tea in my hand, watching the first cars of the day passing on the road, every one of them known to me" Or this about the 2008 financial crisis, which incidentally rather neatly skewers those who do today claim to have forecast what was coming: " ...that collapse which happened without offering any forewarning of itself, none that any of our prophets picked up on anyway as they were all apparently struck dumb and blind, robbed of all foresight when surely this was the kind of catastrophe prophets should have an eye for or some foreknowledge of but didn't see since it is now evident in hindsight that our seers' gifts were of a lesser order, their warnings lowered to a tremendous bleating, the voices of men hedging their bets and without the proper pitch of hysterical accusation as they settled instead for fault-finding and analysis, that cautionary note which in the end proved wholly inadequate to the coming disaster because pointing out flaws was never going to be enough and figures and projections, no matter how dire, were never likely to map out the real contours of the calamity or prove to an an adequate spell against it when, without that shrill tone of indictment, theirs was never a song to hold our attention and no point whatsover meeting catastrophe with reason when what was needed was our prophets deranged and coming towards us wild-eyed and smeared with shit, ringing a bell, seer and sinner at once while speaking some language from the edge of reason ..." The whole story also has something of an air of failure and disappointment, of machines that break down, of engineering projects that fail: "something in me recognising this as a clear instance of the world forfeiting one of its better ideas, as if something for which there was once justified hope had proven to be a failure." And from page one, Marcus feels there is something onimous about this particular day, a day: " that has done nothing but drive me deeper into a grating dread which seems to determined to conceal its proper cause and which is all the more worrying since there is no doubt whatsoever of its reality or that it is underwritten in some imminent catastrophe for me or upon me or through me this fear which is the whole mood of my vigil at this table for however long it's been since the Angelus bell struck so that even while sitting here with my milk and sandwich, gusted to the core of my bones with the conviction that my wife and children will never come this way again, never return, this dread singing through me from the headlines of the foreign news pages of the newspaper" As one reads one realises that his story never quite progresses beyond the illness his wife suffered, even though he talks of it in the past tense, and one starts to share his sense of foreboding. But the revelation, when it comes, is perhaps the only slightly disappointing aspect of an otherwise excellent novel, both because it is a rather cliched device from movies, but also because it turns out to be revealed on the back cover. It's as if Agatha Christie's publisher has written "Roger Ackroyd is dead. The narrator killed him." However, it transpires, even more oddly, that the author wanted you to know all along that Marcus is dead. From an interview: “I made a deliberate decision to flag that at the beginning so that it would not come as a cheap reveal at the end of the book. I like the way that it privileges the reader throughout with a knowledge that Marcus does not have … it gives the reader a hold on the situation that Marcus does not have.” (https://www.writing.ie/interviews/lit...)But overall, exactly the sort of novel that the Goldsmiths Prize was designed to promote and a worthy winner.
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  • Viv JM
    January 1, 1970
    This book certainly takes stream-of-consciousness to a whole new level, with not a full stop in sight! I was initially a bit wary, thinking I would find the lack of punctuation and meandering style irritating but I didn't at all and, in fact, I found it rather lovely to read. The family felt so real by the end of the book and it definitely stirred my heartstrings. I hope this makes the Man Booker shortlist, and I would be happy to see it win.
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  • Roger Brunyate
    January 1, 1970
     Stream of…First off, DON'T READ THE BLURB on the back cover of this book, or the description above! In its third line, it gives away something that Mike McCormack takes 200 pages to reveal, something that I see as the main point of the entire novel.** Instead, open at the first page and let McCormack's poetic language work on you: the bell   the bell as   hearing the bell as      hearing the bell as standing here      the bell being heard standing here     />/>Stream  Stream of…First off, DON'T READ THE BLURB on the back cover of this book, or the description above! In its third line, it gives away something that Mike McCormack takes 200 pages to reveal, something that I see as the main point of the entire novel.** Instead, open at the first page and let McCormack's poetic language work on you: the bell   the bell as   hearing the bell as      hearing the bell as standing here      the bell being heard standing here      hearing it ring out through the grey light of this      morning, noon or night      god knows      this grey day standing here and      listening to this bell in the middle of the day, the middle of the day bell, the Angelus bell in the middle of the day, ringing out through the grey light to      here      standing in the kitchen      hearing this bell      snag my heart and      draw the whole world into      being here It does not stop. Indeed, there is not a single period in the entire novel. I found it a mesmerizing beginning, with a rhythm that teases the ear, an echo of Joyce, the end of "The Dead" or Molly Bloom, fused with something that is all his own, something incantatory, magnificent, in its repetitions of short phrases:       the village of Louisburgh      from which the Angelus bell is ringing,             drawing up the world again      mountains, rivers and lakes      acres, roots, and perches      animal, mineral, vegetable      covenant, cross and crown      the given world with      all its history to brace myself while      standing here in the kitchen      of this house I was about to put this book on my poetry shelf, and still might. However, while this is a poet's language to which McCormack will return, very soon he will get into prose. Very dense prose sometimes, with paragraphs taking up an entire page, without break or major punctuation. It requires a special kind of reading: to let it all flow through you, picking up the images and feelings, but ignoring the details. I did not enjoy this, for I kept wanting to pause, to understand, to put things into some logical sequence, but was frustrated. Only in the last fifty pages or so did I find a rhythm that kept me moving forward yet gave me the details too. And very beautiful details they were; McCormack is a fine writer. Once I finally got into gear, I felt my first strong attachment to the character, and was gripped by the suspense of what would become of him. The end, especially, was quite moving, and finally explained the style in which the novel is written throughout.The man in the kitchen is Marcus Conway, a civil engineer working for the county authorities in Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland. He lives with his wife Mairead, who is recuperating from a serious illness. Agnes, their eldest child, is an artist in Galway City nearby; their son Darragh is working in the Australian outback as part of a round-the-world trip to find himself. Marcus ranges far and wide in his memories, taking in local politics, global economics, and modernization. He remembers his father, also an engineer. He recalls the early years of his marriage, and its near collapse. He thinks of his time in the seminary, and how he gave up one creed for another, as intense as a religion itself. Like Christ in the wilderness, he meets temptation, and does not give in. All jumbled up. While there seems a kind of hindsight logic to it now, there was a long period when I had no idea what the author's point was, or where he was headed.Towards the end, however, Marcus's thoughts concentrate on a period of about ten days leading up to the present moment. And as they do the book's focus begins to narrow. It is a novel about a family, and more particularly about a marriage, a long and ultimately very happy marriage. Once I realized that, I could stop reading for the originality of language alone, and fully empathize.If only the blurb hadn't told me what was coming.**======** Reading other reviews and the comments attached to them, I have been pointed to an interview in which the author indicates that he actually wanted the reader to know what the blurb gives away. That does not necessarily make it right. It gave me one kind of reading experience, but I still feel that the other would have been stronger. Besides, an author is responsible for what is between the covers; relying on what is printed on the jacket just seems a weak play, abdicating responsibility for something that he could have made clearer in his own words if he wanted to.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Now Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary AwardIt is amazing how this text turns the life of an everyman - "husband, father, citizen" - into poetry! McCormack portrays what is mostly considered too common to make it the heart of a story, and in a way, he celebrates the life of those who make up and sustain our societies: Average people. There are already many interesting and eloquent reviews of this book, so I'd like to restrict myself to challenging one notion that has been frequently maintain Now Winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary AwardIt is amazing how this text turns the life of an everyman - "husband, father, citizen" - into poetry! McCormack portrays what is mostly considered too common to make it the heart of a story, and in a way, he celebrates the life of those who make up and sustain our societies: Average people. There are already many interesting and eloquent reviews of this book, so I'd like to restrict myself to challenging one notion that has been frequently maintained: I'd like to argue that this is indeed a political book. The difference to, for instance, Autumn or Home Fire is that McCormack talks about a lower level of politics. By doing so, he exposes dynamics that exist in and shape politcs in general, and he illustrates how the political sphere affects our lives, everyday, right in front of our eyes.Protagonist Marcus Conway works as a civil engineer for the Mayo County council, and he is responsible for building projects,"(...) projects which if taken all together, would amount to a fully serviced metroplis with adequate housing for a hundred-thousand souls, give or take, plus facilities for health and education and recreation with complete infrastructure (...)". In his job, he is responsible for planning, timely construction, but also the solidity of the buildings. When a politician calls and wants him to sign off papers to start construction on a school building project, Marcus does not want to comply because he worries about the quality and compatibility of the envisioned building materials. The politician points out that he wants to cater to his constituency as he aims to be re-elected, while Marcus, who is just an employee, worries about the safety of the kids who will attend the school. "(...) fuck engineers, Moylette roared, his temper now routedengineers don't make the world, you should know that more than anyone, politics and politicians make the world and I'm telling you now I do not give one fuck whose name appears on that cert butthat's the difference between you and me Johnwhat differencethe difference between a politician and an engineer, your decisions have only to hold up for four or five years - one electoral cycle (...)"This tension between power politics and sound policy is very common on all levels of government (especially when there is a degree of uncertainty involved), and McCormack gives a vivid example of this dynamic and how it affects or might affect people - those working for the government and those living in the governed area. Politics also plays an important role when McCormack describes the health crisis that emerges due to contaminated water. Marcus' beloved wife falls ill, and he has heated discussions with his kids which drift from the water crisis to politics in general. Marcus himself is also very critical of how the crisis is handled:"(...) the civic authorities sought to locate the exact origin of the disaster it found that it could not be pinpointed to one specific cause, human or environmental, but that its primary source was in the convergence of adverse circumstances (...) which smudged and spread responsibility for the crisis in such a way as to make the whole idea of accountability a murky realm (...)" He sees the city "politically at its wits' end", then going on to use metaphors like "a company of zombies (...) shepherding a small flock of sheep".McCormack brings politics into the domestic realm, and I really liked how he manages to merge these spheres. That he does that by using a stream of consciousness-technique (and even bringing this technique to another level by not using any punctuation) reminded me of Arthur Schnitzler's None But The Brave (German: "Leutnant Gustl"), an Austrian classic in which Schnitzler paints a portrait of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's obsession with honor and the military by taking a glimpse inside the head of an army lieutnant. McCormack imagines the thoughts of an everyman, and he paints a picture of modern society.The aspect of politics is certainly not the main point of the novel, but it is one of many components that make the text so brillant.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Now deservedly the winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award. I first read this book when it was shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmith Prize, an award it deservedly went on to win. My original review is at the end of this review.At the time there were two side issues that caused some debateA) Had it been overlooked for the Booker or was it in fact not eligibleB) Why was a major plot revelation included on the back cover blurb (see below) and not eith Now deservedly the winner of the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award. I first read this book when it was shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmith Prize, an award it deservedly went on to win. My original review is at the end of this review.At the time there were two side issues that caused some debateA) Had it been overlooked for the Booker or was it in fact not eligibleB) Why was a major plot revelation included on the back cover blurb (see below) and not either included in the book or omitted entirely. At a reading by all the Goldsmith author's it came up that the book was not eligible for the Booker as it had not actually been published in the U.K. A brief chat with the author at the drinks afterwards confirmed that the statement that the book's narrator is unknowingly dead was deliberately placed in the blurb so as to place the reader in a greater state of awareness than the narrator, and that as the book is in the first person the author did not think it should be placed in the text. The book has now been published in the UK and made the 2017 Booker longlist as a result, but with Marcus's death no longer mentioned on the back. I have just re read the book as part of my longlist read through. Overall I enjoyed the book as much if not more the second time around. This time I particularly enjoyed looking for the clues scattered through the text about Marcus being dead, and his own occasional awareness that something is not quite right. there is something strange about all this, some twitchy energy in the ether which has affected me from the moment those bells began to tollwhy these thoughts [about death notices and burials] today, the whole world in shadow, everything undercut and in its own delirium, the light superimposed on itself so that all things are out of synch and kilter, things as themselves but slightly different from themselves also, every edge and outline blurred or warped and each passing moment belated, lagging a single beat behind its proper measure, the here and now beside itself, slightly off by a degree as in a kind of waking dream in which all things come adrift in their own anxiety so that sitting here now fills me with a crying sense of loneliness for my family ... their absence sweeping through me like ashes. These grey days after Samhain when the souls of the dead are bailed from purgatory for a while by the prayer of the faithful so that they can return to their homes and the light is awash with ghosts and ghouls and the meaning between this world and the next is so blurred we might easily find ourselves under to shoulder with the dead, the world fuller than at any other time of the year,as if some form of spiritual sediment had been stirred upthis day has done nothing but drive me desperate into a grating dread which seems so determined to conceal its proper cause and which is all the more worrying since ther is no doubt whatsoever of its reality or that it is underwritten in some imminent catastrophe nothing coming through at all but the certainty of being wholly displaced here in this house, my own house, and the uncanny feeling of dragging my own after-image with me like an intermittent being, strobing and flickering I also enjoyed the hints as to the reason for his death my line traceable to the gloomy prehistory in which a tenacious clan of farmers and fisherman kept their grip on a small patch of land .... men with bellies and short tempers, half of whom went to heir graves with pains in their chests before they were sixty And picking out Marcus's own anger and short temper: against the interference of politicians, the opportunism unscrupulous contractors, the media coverage of the water poisoning, his sister and father, his daughter's exhibition. Although on the day of his death, he is remarkably happy and almost euphoric (despite catching a newspaper back page on the tragedy of Barcelona's reclamation of Fabregas). Other themes and motives I enjoyed were:- How Marcus relates the world to his engineering background and predilection, so that for example the Roman Catholic catechism has the whole world built up from first principle, towering and rigid as any structural engineer might wish, each line following necessarily from the previous one to link heaven and earth step by stepand how it is clear that for him engineering is subconsciously a way to make sense of the world and impose order on it, and to counter his natural tendencies to anxiety and apocalyptical dread, tendencies exacerbated by the financial crash and by the water contamination outbreak, but tendencies he also decries in his two children in their reaction to the latter. - The perspective on being a father both of young children and of growing children starting to make their own way in life, as well as on being successfully married for many years. Finally he clearly thinks actuaries are well dressed as seeing his artist daughter in a sensible coat he remarks that she looks so sharp that has she been someone else I would not have been surprised to hear that she worked in some sort of financial services job, insurance or something, some career where the value of the present moment is wagered against some unknowable futureHugely recommended.ORIGINAL REVIEWThe book is set on November 2nd 2009 (one day after All Souls Day and one year after the Irish financial crisis) and is narrated by a 49 year old civil engineer (Marcus) who works for a local council in County Mayo and lives in a small village with his teacher wife and two children – Agnes a conceptual artist (whose first exhibition is extracts from small court cases written in her own blood) and Darragh who is backpacking and fruit picking in Australia and whose unwillingness to engage in a career frustrates Marcus. The subject matter of the book is largely conventional – its style anything but.From the blurb we intentionally (on the author’s behalf) learn what Marcus only realises as the story ends – that he died of a heart attack around 8 months previously.Further the book is written in a single, almost unpunctuated, sentence of Marcus thoughts roaming back and forth in time and with paragraph breaks commonly midsentence after “extension/joining” words. The book is though very easy to read and reproduces well the idea of someone’s thoughts flitting from subject to subject, picking up on and drawing out associations and memories. The book mainly explores the family’s past and recent history (including a severe food water contamination bug which strikes his wife) and Marcus’ job and interactions with the local pork barrel politics.Generally a really excellent book – perhaps drifting a little in the middle, but uniquely capturing a normal life in an innovative way which is at the same time immediately natural and realistic.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    Man Booker Longlist 2017. Brilliant! It is November 2nd, All Souls’ Day when Catholics pray for the souls in purgatory and the dead return to walk the earth. The Angelus Bells ring out and we meet the narrator Marcus Conway sitting in the kitchen of the home he lived in for most of his life. He was a civil engineer in rural Ireland—in Louisburgh, near Westport, in the County Mayo—married to the schoolteacher Mairead and father of two grown children that confuse him. Agnes is a performance artist Man Booker Longlist 2017. Brilliant! It is November 2nd, All Souls’ Day when Catholics pray for the souls in purgatory and the dead return to walk the earth. The Angelus Bells ring out and we meet the narrator Marcus Conway sitting in the kitchen of the home he lived in for most of his life. He was a civil engineer in rural Ireland—in Louisburgh, near Westport, in the County Mayo—married to the schoolteacher Mairead and father of two grown children that confuse him. Agnes is a performance artist and Darragh is currently drifting from place to place in Australia.In a single sentence of continuous stream of consciousness, McCormick has Marcus recount the key moments of his life as a father, husband, and civil engineer for the County. The longest story involves a water contamination crisis that caused over 400 people in the area—including his wife—to fall ill from cryptosporidiosis, a virus found in water contaminated by feces. The fault seems to be due to a combination of bureaucratic shortcomings. [Echoes of the Flint water crisis?]Marcus’ eulogy to his small-town life with its “rites, rhythms and rituals/upholding the world like solar bones” reminds us of the strength such men provide a community. Highly recommend listening to Tim Reynolds' excellent narration—the reader avoids the confusing lack of punctuation and can revel in the musicality of his Irish accent.
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  • Canadian
    January 1, 1970
    I found this to be a beautiful, rich, and rewarding book. On the surface, SOLAR BONES presents a middle-aged man's reflections on his work and family life. The meditation unfolds one early afternoon in November—the month of All Souls, when ghosts restlessly flit about—while the man is alone in the house he's lived in since he married 25 years ago. Marcus Conway is an engineer with a metaphysical bent. In due time, the reader learns that his original intentions had been toward the priesthood. Hav I found this to be a beautiful, rich, and rewarding book. On the surface, SOLAR BONES presents a middle-aged man's reflections on his work and family life. The meditation unfolds one early afternoon in November—the month of All Souls, when ghosts restlessly flit about—while the man is alone in the house he's lived in since he married 25 years ago. Marcus Conway is an engineer with a metaphysical bent. In due time, the reader learns that his original intentions had been toward the priesthood. Having spent two years at a seminary as a young man before a voice told him to “cop himself on” (smarten up), he is well grounded in the humanities: poetry, philosophy, literature. Now, on this November afternoon, he muses about how all things tend towards entropy. The energy of the sun infuses, makes possible, all life on this planet, and it seems that part of the work of humans is to impose rhythm and meaning on existence, create structure, give life its "bones". However, things eventually wind down: they move from order and structure to disorder, dissolution, diffusion, oblivion. This process is working within Marcus himself as he looks back on his life while anxiously awaiting the return of his wife and children who might hold him in their gaze and affirm his existence. McCormack's work thoughtfully explores the tension between politics and engineering. This may sound dull, but In McCormack’s capable hands, it works beautifully. Marcus reflects that an engineer, taking the long view, can withhold approval for a building that rests on unstable, unreliable foundations, knowing that it is only a matter of time before that the building will fail or fall—injuring, maiming, or killing the vulnerable. A politician's view, on the other hand, is fuelled by the desire for quick results which will keep him basking in his constituents' approval and propel him to ever higher office and power. Marcus’s working life was characterized by repeated wearing encounters with fractious elected officials eager to throw caution to the wind and present voters with pretty public works projects.A large section of the book is devoted to Marcus's thoughts on a cryptosporidium water-contamination outbreak that leaves many in the Galway vicinity, including Martin's wife, Mairead, disabled for weeks by diarrhea and vomiting. It is a small matter perhaps, but McCormack refers to this illness as a virus when it is actually infection and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract by microscopic parasitic organisms called Protozoa. As well, his descriptions of Mairead's bedridden days (the bouts of illness in which bodily fluids pour from one end or the other) run overly long. These seem to be fairly minor quibbles with an otherwise accomplished, impressive piece of stream-of-consciousness writing whose form embodies and serves its themes so well.For me, SOLAR BONES provided a wonderful, unusual reading experience. I look forward to reading McCormack’s other works.Rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5
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  • Producervan in Cornville, AZ from New Orleans & L.A.
    January 1, 1970
    Solar Bones by Mike McCormack. Kindle Edition. Tramp Press. ©2016. Tramp Press is a publishing company founded in Dublin in 2014 and is an independent publisher that specializes in Irish fiction.Magnificent. This is by far the best work of adult fiction I've read this year, in fact in several. (And I have read some great ones!) A rare insightful look inside the mind of a family man from County Mayo. A stream-of-consciousness novel like James Joyce; poetic, spare, passionate. Surprisi Solar Bones by Mike McCormack. Kindle Edition. Tramp Press. ©2016. Tramp Press is a publishing company founded in Dublin in 2014 and is an independent publisher that specializes in Irish fiction.Magnificent. This is by far the best work of adult fiction I've read this year, in fact in several. (And I have read some great ones!) A rare insightful look inside the mind of a family man from County Mayo. A stream-of-consciousness novel like James Joyce; poetic, spare, passionate. Surprising. A brilliant book written in a single sentence.This book is:Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker PrizeWinner of the Goldsmiths PrizeWinner of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year An Irish Times Book Club ChoiceHighly recommend.
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  • Joseph Spuckler
    January 1, 1970
    Marcus Conway hears the bell of Angelus while sitting at his kitchen table waiting for his wife to come home on All Soul's Day. He speaks to the reader in a stream of consciousness remembering his town and past. Marcus is a middle-aged civil engineer with a lifetime of stories and struggles. He sees the world from the point of an engineer, and it provides a split in his world. Much like modernism's creation when the world broke in two, Marcus' world is also deeply divided. Politicians and engine Marcus Conway hears the bell of Angelus while sitting at his kitchen table waiting for his wife to come home on All Soul's Day. He speaks to the reader in a stream of consciousness remembering his town and past. Marcus is a middle-aged civil engineer with a lifetime of stories and struggles. He sees the world from the point of an engineer, and it provides a split in his world. Much like modernism's creation when the world broke in two, Marcus' world is also deeply divided. Politicians and engineers create the divide in his world. There seems to be a battle between votes and where money and improvements go. The boom-bust cycle in Ireland in the early 2000s is taking its toll in construction and even in the maintenance of the water system. It also creates friction between doing things right and politicians keeping workers happy. This split will also bring problems to his family.Reading this book the reader may feel like he is in the early twentieth century. The language flows, and there is the influence of Joyce or even Woolf in the words and style. The reader is pulled back into modern times with mentions of the internet and cell phones. Time passes for Marcus not only does he age but so does his father. His children become adults. The news bulletins on the radio continue after the tone to mark the top of the hour as it has done throughout Marcus' life, dividing his day. It is a reminder of time passing much like the Angelus bell marks the time at the beginning of the book. Time moves on carrying us with it and in the end, like Marcus, there never seems to be enough. An excellent novel that captures the spirit of modernism in the present day.
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  • William
    January 1, 1970
    Thoroughly obnoxious stream of dull thoughts. DNF
  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    It's easy to scoff at literary fiction which experiments with form given our existing canon of literature which is already packed full of wildly eccentric novels. Everyone from Virginia Woolf to Samuel Beckett to Gertrude Stein to William S Burroughs to Eimear McBride has twisted not only conventional grammar but the shape of the story on the page to say something new about the experience of life and art. So a novel that is one long continuous sentence which lasts more than two hundred pages may It's easy to scoff at literary fiction which experiments with form given our existing canon of literature which is already packed full of wildly eccentric novels. Everyone from Virginia Woolf to Samuel Beckett to Gertrude Stein to William S Burroughs to Eimear McBride has twisted not only conventional grammar but the shape of the story on the page to say something new about the experience of life and art. So a novel that is one long continuous sentence which lasts more than two hundred pages may seem like it's being wilfully unconventional, but really the style of Mick McCormack's “Solar Bones” perfectly suits the flow of thought for its meditative and entertaining narrator Marcus Conway.Read my full review of Solar Bones by Mike McCormack on LonesomeReader
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  • Robert
    January 1, 1970
    Now the winner of the 2018 Dublin Literary AwardsSolar Bones is notorious for two things. One is that the book is comprised of one 223 page long sentence and that there's the famous 'spoiler' if you have the Tramp Press edition (which I have, the Canongate edition omits the spoiler). Oh and it won the Goldsmiths prize First of all don't let the one sentence thing bug you. McCormack still uses paragraphs, however they are connected with words such as then, but, when etc so it's readable. Secon Now the winner of the 2018 Dublin Literary AwardsSolar Bones is notorious for two things. One is that the book is comprised of one 223 page long sentence and that there's the famous 'spoiler' if you have the Tramp Press edition (which I have, the Canongate edition omits the spoiler). Oh and it won the Goldsmiths prize First of all don't let the one sentence thing bug you. McCormack still uses paragraphs, however they are connected with words such as then, but, when etc so it's readable. Secondly don't let the spoiler affect you. Treat it like a game and figure out how the main protagonist came to that predicament.On a surface level you could say it's about a man, Marcus Conway, reflecting on life but obviously the book goes into more depth. Solar Bones, mostly is about politics, the absurdity of government decisions, the drive to be popular, the lengths a politician will go to in order to pander to the media, which is another big theme in the novel. Here media is seen to shock and forecast doom in every possible way. In this regard one could say that there are parallels with Ali Smith as she tackles the same topics in her latest book, Autumn.Also there are elements of Tom McCarthy's Satin Island, in the sense that everyday occurrences play a big role for the main protagonist. One example is when Marcus is eating a sandwich and finally realising how great life can be (although what happens afterwards kind of makes that premise sour) and there are further 'Satin Island' moments in the novel. However as banal as they seem they are important and form some poignant allegories, my personal favourite being the cake knife/married life section.McCormack makes sure the grey cells are buzzing about in Solar Bones and as with most of the books on this year's Booker longlist, the novel will benefit from a second reading.One last thing? is the one sentence used to prove to us readers that life is like one long sentence? I noticed the book does not end with a full stop so is McCormack hinting that no matter what life goes on? As I stated Solar Bones is a novel that has long lasting after effects (and this is just one of the questions I have), which, for me, is a sign of a great novel.
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  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    I bought this book last summer on a book buying spree in Belfast - 3 bookstores and Tesco's in one morning! I didn't get to it right away, and when it was the April read for my book club, wasn't able to attend the meeting nor finish the book. However, I was pulled in immediately by the story, and strong sense of place in the novel, which is set in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. The title shows up early in this phrase: “rites, rhythms and rituals / upholding the world like solar bones”. I bought this book last summer on a book buying spree in Belfast - 3 bookstores and Tesco's in one morning! I didn't get to it right away, and when it was the April read for my book club, wasn't able to attend the meeting nor finish the book. However, I was pulled in immediately by the story, and strong sense of place in the novel, which is set in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. The title shows up early in this phrase: “rites, rhythms and rituals / upholding the world like solar bones”.This is an unconventionally written novel. There are no periods and no chapters. Fortunately the author uses commas and paragraphs. I soon overcame the lack of punctuation as the voice of the main character, Marcus Conway, husband, and engineer, and father of two adult children, never faltered. His daughter is an artist who is exploring experimental forms, and his son is wandering Australia (an aside: many young Australians take extended foreign trips of months or years, but it seems less common for Europeans to spend months wandering around there). Conway describes the machinations of local politicians, and corruption that abounds even in rural areas. I appreciated McCormack's descriptions of the engineering involved in his work. I was struck by the care he took to illustrate details of construction. This was not simply a writing exercise, but a critical component for creating the portrait of Conway as a man of integrity.Conway is also a caring husband and working to show his deep love for his daughter and son. They engage in back-and-forths as each of these adult children work to establish their separateness from their parents and success at being independent. Conway also possesses a deep love for Mayo. The economic crash that Ireland experienced beginning in 2008 was still to come. But we see signs that things are amiss. There is a development of a local and then national crisis that affects his own family. There is a hint of dystopia, which may be how people felt when the Celtic Tiger died with the end of the boom.This book deserves the numerous awards and recognition it has received. I am sure there is an audience for it in America.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    I'm giving this 2 stars because I've read worse. And, also, if I allowed myself to fully comprehend how much time and energy I just wasted on getting through this book, I would have to commit seppuku. Today I choose to live!Strike One: A major plot element is portrayed erroneously.Crytposporidium is neither coliform (a bacteria) nor a virus. It is an enteric pathogen of the parasitic class. (And, no, "viral parasite" isn't acceptable either.). McCormack's insistence on cl I'm giving this 2 stars because I've read worse. And, also, if I allowed myself to fully comprehend how much time and energy I just wasted on getting through this book, I would have to commit seppuku. Today I choose to live!Strike One: A major plot element is portrayed erroneously.Crytposporidium is neither coliform (a bacteria) nor a virus. It is an enteric pathogen of the parasitic class. (And, no, "viral parasite" isn't acceptable either.). McCormack's insistence on classifying "crypto" as a viral outbreak for hundreds of pages is as perverse as it is incorrect.Does this matter? I think so. Nobody would take me seriously if I penned a novel with large sections devoted to the English Horn and continually referred to it as a brass instrument.Strike Two: There are obvious grammatical errors."...a soft opportunity from which I had neither the wit nor courage to back away from..." and "...they were solid things to which I might hang onto with both hands..." Placing the preposition both before and after the clause is just sad."...which was of course was the very feature..." Placing the verb at several points in the same sentence fragment is also super sloppy.When an author requires a reader to follow one extended, largely unpunctuated phrase for 265 pages, he or she needs to be precise and exact with their word-flow. Anything less is a sadistic breach of contract.Strike Three: The protagonist (Marcus Conway), his history, and his philosophies are uniformly uninteresting and seldom illuminating.Stream-of-consciousness is all well and good - and, as James Joyce so skillfully showed, can be an incredibly powerful and effective literary tool - but this is closer to stream-of-crappiness too much of the time.
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  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    FURTHER UPDATE: On reflection, I think I have made a complete fool of myself with comments about the blurb. I now think that the blurb on the back is quite possibly the cleverest thing about it. The author has set the scene and the atmosphere for his book without using any of his novel to do it! He wants you to know what is explained on the back, so you do need to read it.UPDATE: Since writing this, I have discovered that you should ignore my warnings about the blurb. The author wants you FURTHER UPDATE: On reflection, I think I have made a complete fool of myself with comments about the blurb. I now think that the blurb on the back is quite possibly the cleverest thing about it. The author has set the scene and the atmosphere for his book without using any of his novel to do it! He wants you to know what is explained on the back, so you do need to read it.UPDATE: Since writing this, I have discovered that you should ignore my warnings about the blurb. The author wants you to read the blurb. However, he says this is because he wants you to be in a privileged position compared to the protagonist, but, as far as I can see, it actually puts you in the same position. However, I change my advice because the blurb is deliberate. This also means I can change my rating, which is good because I really wanted to give this 4 stars!Original review:It is probably too late to say this to people who are reading this review, but if it is at all possible for you to read this book without reading the blurb on the back cover, I would strongly advise that: your experience of the book will be approximately ten-times better if you can avoid knowing what it says on that back cover. Unfortunately, most people will browse in a book shop and read that back cover to decide whether they are interested in buying the book.Anyway, to the book itself. It is notable for being a 217-page sentence: there is not a single full-stop. There are paragraph breaks but they nearly all occur mid-thought. This does have the effect of making it very difficult to find a place to stop reading at bed time, but I am not complaining. It is an interesting structure and is probably the best way to support the style of the book which is effectively a stream of consciousness and associative memories. We follow the main character as his thoughts meander through his life while he stands in his kitchen (this might sound a bit dull, but it really isn't!) - his wife, his son and daughter, his job, some current events. They all appear and then sometimes re-appear as his memories flicker from one topic to another. But the randomness does not stop a clear story emerging.I loved the start of the book which is very poetic. The poetic writing style re-appears at the end, too. But, in the main part of the book, the disjointed structure remains but the narrative, apart from the lack of punctuation, becomes much more "normal". I much preferred the combination of experimental narrative and experimental structure to the bits that are just experimental structure.So, in the end, I deducted a star because the main part of the book didn't excite me as much as the start and end. And then I deducted another star because the publishers spoiled it for me with the crazy stuff they wrote on the back cover. I'll say it again: if you can avoid reading the back cover, you will enjoy this book far more than if you do read it.But, all that said, this is an absorbing book told in a dynamic and intense way. I can see why it is on the Goldsmiths Prize short list and I would certainly look to read more of McCormack's work (although I'd avoid reading his publisher's blurb next time).
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  • Pink
    January 1, 1970
    This was a pleasant surprise. After a disappointing experience with another gimmicky Booker contender (Lincoln in the Bardo), I thought this would go the same way for me. Solar Bones is a stream of consciousness, one sentence novel, which makes it sound horrific, but I found it a delight to read. I'm glad it's made the Booker Longlist and hopefully this will encourage more people to give it a shot. What really worked, was the construction of the book and the writing. Technically it's one sentenc This was a pleasant surprise. After a disappointing experience with another gimmicky Booker contender (Lincoln in the Bardo), I thought this would go the same way for me. Solar Bones is a stream of consciousness, one sentence novel, which makes it sound horrific, but I found it a delight to read. I'm glad it's made the Booker Longlist and hopefully this will encourage more people to give it a shot. What really worked, was the construction of the book and the writing. Technically it's one sentence, but there are line breaks and punctuation throughout, which makes it easy to read. The text has it's own rhythm and while it's sedate and meandering, there's almost an urgency to it, which pushes you forward. It's an incredibly accomplished piece of writing, that left me satisfied until the very end. What didn't work for me, was some of the topics. All of the family relationships and reflections were fantastic, but there was a touch too much civil engineering for my liking. There's so much mention of concrete, that I thought it would have a more important place in the overall plot, but it didn't. So far craftsmanship, it's a 5 star book. For personal enjoyment throughout, more like 3.5.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    What happens at the threshold through which we all must pass. If it is true as has been supposed (since nobody can say for sure), one's life passes before one's eyes, details that went into forming a life come into focus, seemingly too late to make a difference. In this self elegy, Marcus Conway revises his existence, preparing him for the next level, in this extended word poem lacking the signposts of chapter endings, even punctuation. Read as a poem, it flows effortlessly, and is hard to put d What happens at the threshold through which we all must pass. If it is true as has been supposed (since nobody can say for sure), one's life passes before one's eyes, details that went into forming a life come into focus, seemingly too late to make a difference. In this self elegy, Marcus Conway revises his existence, preparing him for the next level, in this extended word poem lacking the signposts of chapter endings, even punctuation. Read as a poem, it flows effortlessly, and is hard to put down because of its construction. As I haven't read anything else by this author, I looked up his previous books, and discover he takes chances that make his work challenging but worth the effort. The fact that he is an award winner in his native Ireland says a lot -- that country has been responsible for some of my favorite books, and this is yet another.
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  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Solar Bones follows the inner most thoughts of Marcus Conway, as he reflects on his loves and life based on his analytical mind, in a single hour. The story is told in a wonderfully unique way, without any limitations on punctuation. It flows almost like a stream of consciousness. It felt at once very intimate, and I felt an immediate pull to Marcus, the main character. However, I just couldn't really get to grips with the way this I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Solar Bones follows the inner most thoughts of Marcus Conway, as he reflects on his loves and life based on his analytical mind, in a single hour. The story is told in a wonderfully unique way, without any limitations on punctuation. It flows almost like a stream of consciousness. It felt at once very intimate, and I felt an immediate pull to Marcus, the main character. However, I just couldn't really get to grips with the way this is written. I can fully appreciate it for what it is - it's wonderfully written, but for whatever reason it just couldn't hold my interest. I think I'm just not a fan of these types of books, but I might retry this when I feel I can lavish the attention on it this book deserves.
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