A Town Called Solace: ‘Will break your heart’ Graham Norton

Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace: 'Will break your heart' Graham Norton
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A Town Called Solace: ‘Will break your heart’ Graham Norton

Mary Lawson

Clara’s sister is missing. Angry, rebellious Rose, had a row with their mother, stormed out of the house and simply disappeared. Eight-year-old Clara, isolated by her distraught parents' efforts to protect her from the truth, is grief-stricken and bewildered.

Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, moves into the house next door, a house left to him by an old woman he can barely remember and within hours gets a visit from the police. It seems he’s suspected of a crime.

At the end of her life Elizabeth Orchard is thinking about a crime too, one committed thirty years ago that had tragic consequences for two families and in particular for one small child. She desperately wants to make amends before she dies.

Set in Northern Ontario in 1972, A Town Called Solace explores the relationships of these three people brought together by fate and the mistakes of the past. By turns gripping and darkly funny, it uncovers the layers of grief and remorse and love that connect us, but shows that sometimes a new life is possible.



It’s wonderful to start the year reading a novel that’s tender, well-written and hard to put down. This book is set in rural Toronto in 1972, and the landscape and weather affect the mood of the story. The story is told from the perspective of three characters; the first one we meet is eight-year-old Clara, a hyper-vigilant girl who stands at the window waiting for her runaway sister Rose to come home. Clara is tasked with feeding her next-door neighbour’s cat while Mrs Orchard is in hospital. So when she sees an unfamiliar man enter the house with boxes, she is shocked and confused.

Liam has moved into the house – left to him by Mrs Orchard – following a bitter breakup and quitting his accounting job in Toronto. He can’t work out what to do with his life and he hopes temporarily living in the house will give him some breathing space. However, the house is in disrepair, and to sell it he needs to spend longer in the aptly named town of Solace. He is unaware that Clara is spying on him. He is also puzzled why Mrs Orchard would leave him the house.

The third character is Mrs Orchard. In hospital with a terminal heart condition, her story is narrated as if to her late husband. Toward the end of her story, we learn about her connection to Liam in his younger years, and their bond, which ends in catastrophe.

This novel is literary fiction at its finest, without a word out of place. It also manages to be a page turner as the reader races to find the connection between Mrs Orchard and Liam. There is also the search for 16-year-old Rose, which frustrates police, and devastates her parents and little sister.

Annie Condon is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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