OK, it is time to reveal something about myself; I am a huge fan of Irish literature. I love Irish literature. I yearn for Irish literature. It is an obsession indeed. Oscar Wilde is my all-time favourite, but he has a contemporary rival, John Boyne. I have not read anything by him I haven’t not love. The topics might not always be of interest to me, but the writing simply takes my breath away. In case you didn’t get it; I love John Boyne. Well, not really, I don’t know him, but I do love his writing style.
A History of Loneliness is probably the book that has hit me the hardest of Boyne’s excellent selection of books. Back in the good auld 1970s Odran Yates does what so many other young Irish lads do; he enters the Seminary. Back then it was a highly respected choice, and many a Catholic family had one son joining priesthood.
Fast forward forty years and the attitude towards Catholic priests has dramatically changed. Even Odran feels like it is not safe or smart to stroll around town in a cassock. “I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life.” He definitely gets a hit when walking hand-in-hand with a young boy in a department store while they are looking for the young boy’s mother… Odran’s friend is jailed, people’s lives are being destroyed, secrets are revealed, we’ve all heard stories.
This theme is not easy to write about, and when an author from an overly-Catholic country like Ireland tackles the issue it just works! “In that moment, I did what I always did at moment of crisis or desperation in my life. I reached into my satchel and removed my Bible, a book that over the years had occasionally offered me answers but more often than not had left me with questions, but which had never failed to distract my mind and offer some comfort.”
I highly recommend this book, even to those who might want to avoid this subject, because it’s still fiction, even though it feels oh so real. If you’ve never read anything by John Boyne, read something as soon as possible! He’s writing style is simply profound, and he is for sure not afraid to tackle even the most painful of subjects. If there is one author I can recommend from the bottom of my heart it’s John Boyne!