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The life of a good priest in Ireland over the past 50 years provokes one of John Boyne's most powerful novels yet

Odran Yates enters Clonliffe Seminary in 1972 after his mother informs him that he has a vocation to the priesthood. He goes in full of ambition and hope, dedicated to his studies and keen to make friends.

Forty years later, Odran’s devotion has been challenged by the revelations that have shattered the Irish people’s faith in the church. He has seen friends stand trial, colleagues jailed, the lives of young parishioners destroyed and has become nervous of venturing out in public for fear of disapproving stares and insulting remarks.

But when a family tragedy opens wounds from his past, he is forced to confront the demons that have raged within a once respected institution and recognise his own complicity in their propagation.
It has taken John Boyne fifteen years and twelve novels to write about his home country of Ireland but he has done so now in his most powerful novel to date, a novel about blind dogma and moral courage, and about the dark places where the two can meet. At once courageous and intensely personal, A History of Loneliness confirms Boyne as one of the most searching chroniclers of his generation.

Reviews

An urgently compelling story of power, corruption, lies and self-deceits, the damage that happens when we turn our eyes from wrong. Anyone who wants to know what happened in the Irish Catholic Church needs to read this brave, righteously angry and stunning book. Some of us have long wondered what it would be like if a master storyteller turned his powers to this theme. Now we know.

Joseph O'Connor

John Boyne has plunged into the dark and troubled history of the Catholic Church in our time and come up with a novel to treasure. Unflinching, moving and true

John Banville

The complex architecture of this haunting novel is seamlessly constructed. The path to the priesthood that Odran Yates follows is both understandable and sympathetic. And Father Yates is a good man; he is innocent of the false accusations made against him (he's not a pedophile). But as this author accomplished, so masterfully, in The Absolutist, John Boyne has created a character who holds himself accountable -- in the case of Father Yates, for the sins of others. No writer today handles guilt with as much depth and sadness as John Boyne. As Father Yates takes himself to task for all he didn't do, no less than the sexual duplicity and cover-ups of the Catholic Church are indicted. This is John Boyne's most important novel, and of vital importance to Irish history; it is also a gripping story, one no reader can put down until its devastating ending.

John Irving

Gripping, harrowing and extremely moving...A painfully page-turning read...A vividly three-dimensional dissection of bothe the priesthood and the larger cultural malaise of Ireland

Phil Baker, Sunday Times

Beautifully and powerfully written, with an undercurrent of passion, A History of Loneliness is aptly titled. A portrait of one if those individuals we imagine we know -- but have not a clue of his depths.

Joyce Carol Oates

A harsh, unsparing novel...A lacerating portrait of Irish society...Boyne writes with compelling anger about the abuses of power and the dangers of submission.

Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

With this exceptional piece of fiction, Boyne has explored a subject with insight and sensitivity which most would shy away from. It’s a brave, angry and powerful novel which sheds new light on a dark chapter in Ireland’s history.

Carla McKay, Daily Mail

..this book raises the question of whether being blinkered by faith and bewildered by real life absolves anyone of the greatest sin of all:silence.

Jenny Barlow, Daily Express

A troubling book about a continuingly difficult and disturbing subject.The innocence of the times rings true. Similarly the power of authority – the hierarchy, teachers, parents, gardaí – is demonstrated both forcefully and subtly. It is difficult in any age to convey the dynamics of faith on the page, and the author’s efforts here are powerful and arresting.

Christina Hunt Mahony, Irish Times

A beauifully written and admirably restrained response to the systematic abuse which has blighted thousands of lives

Event magazine

In the hands of a less agile writer, the complex narration of this novel and its passionate denunciation of the Catholic Church would likely have failed. Fortunately for us, Boyne is a master storyteller. When I arrived at the last page, I knew I had just read an instant classic.

Toronto Star

Respectfully outraged, timely, scandalous and loaded with more than a little controversy, A History of Loneliness shimmers like a multifaceted diamond.

Washington Blade

Deftly complex . . . Boyne gets it right

USA Today

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780552778435

    July 1, 2015

    Black Swan

    480 pages

    RRP $19.99

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  • EBook

    9781448111817

    September 4, 2014

    Transworld Digital

    480 pages

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