Had this book won the Booker Prize, all my fears about the dumbing down of the Booker would have been realized. As it is, it did not progress from the longlist, and that’s a good thing.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the book. Set in a small town Solace in 1970s Ontario, the narrative switches between three characters: Clara, Elizabeth and Liam. Eight year old Clara’s family is in crisis after Clara’s older sister Rose has left home and disappeared without trace. She stands vigil by the window, willing Rose to re-appear. Rose doesn’t, but instead she sees a car draw up at the house next door and a young man get out and let himself into the house. The owner of the house, Elizabeth Orchard, is in hospital and Clare has promised to feed the cat in her absence. Unknown to her, Elizabeth has died and left the house to Liam, the young man, who had been a neighbour of Elizabeth’s many years earlier. Many years earlier Elizabeth, unable to have children, had welcomed Liam into her house and come to love him as her own son. Liam had only re-established contact with Elizabeth in recent years, and was surprised that Elizabeth had left the home to him. His own marriage had just broken down, and so he moved up to Solace with the intention of selling the house and working out what to do next.
It’s a pleasant enough, holiday read: I read it in an afternoon, sitting on the back deck. All the ends are neatly tied up and it’s a slightly unsettling feel-good story, but it’s certainly not Booker material. A Women’s Weekly Good Read maybe. But surely not the Booker
My rating: 6/10
Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library
Read because: it was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2021