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A History of Loneliness

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John Boyne takes the subject of child abuse in the Irish Catholic Church in this book and he does it so well. He focuses on the culture in the church which allowed everyone to turn a blind eye to abuse happening, rather than writing about the abuse itself.

His central character is a priest who is a good guy. He is horrified by the unfolding crisis. The story goes back and forward in time, very effectively, covering Odran Yates's childhood, adolescence, early priesthood and his career. Although he seems to be content as a priest, that has been his good luck; it is clear how many men of his generation, including him (those joining the church in the 1960s) were subject to a degree of pressure in "discovering" their vocation, and the damage that did when the vocation was to a life of celibacy combined with a position of isolated power.

As the story emerges, he realises the opportunities he could have taken to see what was going on, but also the degree of institutional corruption and misogyny that meant that people weren't heard when they did speak up.

He also shows, through the eyes of this one priest, how opportunities were lost to modernise and open up.

It felt like John Boyne was meant to write this book. There's a quiet dignity in this where there could have been drama. It's very readable, very involving. 


(If a thread exists on this, I can't find it, but that happens to me a lot!)

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I see this is an old(ish) thread but thought I'd reply as I read A History Of Loneliness some years back, probably shortly after it was released. I believe I heard about it on the radio. I thought it was obviously a dark and somewhat bleak read but I found it quite haunting and I think immersive as well, if I remember right. Certainly thought provoking. Thankfully the serious subject was, I thought, handled quite well (i.e. sensitively).


I remember wanting to read more of John Boyne's books after I finished this one but I was put off, at the time, as his other books seemed to be quite long, pagination wise and at the time I tended to prefer reading books under or about 300 or 350 pages long (nowadays I read books up to about 450 pages long).

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      Rescued Thread
      Hazel 2nd February 2006 12:51 PM
      Blurb from Amazon -
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      lipstick_librarian 3rd February 2006 02:23 PM
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      Flingo 2nd April 2006 02:00 PM
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