Book Review

Book Review – The History of Loneliness

history of lonelinessThe History of Loneliness by John Boyne


It is really difficult to describe the plot and background to this book because it is a tale that is revealed in stages, rather than given as a linear story, but I’ll give my interpretation of it. We are immersed in the life of Father Odran Yates, a Catholic priest who is removed from his comfortable teaching post in a boy’s school for reasons that become apparent as the book progresses. There are many layers to this story, and it raises as many questions for me as it answers. It made me think a lot about how victims are defined, and how a handful of individuals have the power to bring down an institution.

My overall impression?

From the very first page I was drawn into this story and even now, four or five days later the characters and the things that pricked my own imagination and conscience are still living in my head. It is an extremely well written book from an obviously accomplished author. I hadn’t read any of John Boyne’s work before so wasn’t sure what to expect but the way that he weaves this story is a wonderful treat. The story jumps around quite a lot but it is not distracting in the least. We read scenes from Odran’s childhood, his early adulthood, episodes from his teenage years and of course, we learn about his time in the seminary as a trainee priest. These little pictures of Odran’s past all contribute to the overall picture of how his position as a priest has changed over the years. The eventual outcome of the book is signalled from about three-quarters of the way through, but had I been paying more attention then I probably could have put two and two together sooner. But having said that, it didn’t matter because the joy of this book lies in the telling of the story rather than the eventual destination.

Who are the main characters?

The story is narrated by Father Odran Yates, but his story weaves around members of his family (his sister, her children, his mother), his long standing friendship with other priests from his seminary days, and probably the biggest “character” of them all is the Catholic Church of Ireland. 

Where is it set?

It is mostly set in Ireland but there are chapters of the book set in Rome. 

Will I read any more by this author?

Most definitely! As I said, I haven’t read any work by John Boyne before, but I will certainly be putting this right in the future. If this one is anything to go by, he has definitely got the knack of creating believable characters who are flawed and weak as we all are in real life.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

Yes, without doubt. This is a book for readers who are interested in people stories rather than action stories, and it is for readers who like to question what is accepted as truth by others. It would also appeal to those readers who like to observe life rather than question it. An all-round great read and one to recommend to others.

glasses and book


2 thoughts on “Book Review – The History of Loneliness”

  1. excellent review ……an other of his books the house of special purpose is based on the russian royal family and told by a young guard……he weaves history and fiction together wonderfully….also MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is about a young boy who ends up on the ship and tells the story from his point…..


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