A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

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.

 Read review
A Town Called Solace: LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021

A Town Called Solace: LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021

Mary Lawson

$32.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...