05 June, 2015

A history of loneliness by John Boyne

“It was what I suppose could be called a long dark night of the soul.”

Father Odran Yates is a good man. But is he a weak man? In this story we see how silence and denial are just as much crimes as the act of committing them.
After a devastating family tragedy, 17-year-old Odran is told by his mother that he has a vocation and must join the Catholic priesthood.

It is the early 1970s in Ireland when the church is still a much respected institution. Odran enters the seminary full of faith and optimism, but as time goes on he finds himself looking on at its dark and troubled side – the molestation of young boys by the clergy.

We see the tragic effects of abuse in the isolation and loneliness of men, now grown and we see the distrust against clerics that rises in an angry community.

As the story goes back and forth in time, Odran observes how his best friend Tom is moved from parish to parish as are some of  his other brethren; despite the clues and implications, he hides from himself what he truly doesn’t want to see, because he wants his faith in the Church and his friend to remain intact. Even though his own family may be affected.

Eventually, his inaction creates a tragic dilemma he must confront as he faces himself in his later years.

Author of The absolutist and The boy in striped pyjamas, this is John Boyne’s first novel set in his home country, Ireland. Once again he has turned out an engrossing story on a provocative issue that I would recommend to anyone interested in a thoughtful and empathetic read.

Author: John Boyne

Recommended by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

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