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A History of Loneliness

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Propelled into the priesthood by a family tragedy, Odran Yates is full of hope and ambition. When he arrives at Clonliffe Seminary in the 1970s, it is a time in Ireland when priests are highly respected, and Odran believes that he is pledging his life to "the good." Forty years later, Odran's devotion is caught in revelations that shatter the Irish people's faith in the Cat Propelled into the priesthood by a family tragedy, Odran Yates is full of hope and ambition. When he arrives at Clonliffe Seminary in the 1970s, it is a time in Ireland when priests are highly respected, and Odran believes that he is pledging his life to "the good." Forty years later, Odran's devotion is caught in revelations that shatter the Irish people's faith in the Catholic Church. He sees his friends stand trial, colleagues jailed, the lives of young parishioners destroyed, and grows nervous of venturing out in public for fear of disapproving stares and insults. At one point, he is even arrested when he takes the hand of a young boy and leads him out of a department store looking for the boy's mother. But when a family event opens wounds from his past, he is forced to confront the demons that have raged within the church, and to recognize his own complicity in their propagation, within both the institution and his own family. A novel as intimate as it is universal, A History of Loneliness is about the stories we tell ourselves to make peace with our lives. It confirms Boyne as one of the most searching storytellers of his generation.


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Propelled into the priesthood by a family tragedy, Odran Yates is full of hope and ambition. When he arrives at Clonliffe Seminary in the 1970s, it is a time in Ireland when priests are highly respected, and Odran believes that he is pledging his life to "the good." Forty years later, Odran's devotion is caught in revelations that shatter the Irish people's faith in the Cat Propelled into the priesthood by a family tragedy, Odran Yates is full of hope and ambition. When he arrives at Clonliffe Seminary in the 1970s, it is a time in Ireland when priests are highly respected, and Odran believes that he is pledging his life to "the good." Forty years later, Odran's devotion is caught in revelations that shatter the Irish people's faith in the Catholic Church. He sees his friends stand trial, colleagues jailed, the lives of young parishioners destroyed, and grows nervous of venturing out in public for fear of disapproving stares and insults. At one point, he is even arrested when he takes the hand of a young boy and leads him out of a department store looking for the boy's mother. But when a family event opens wounds from his past, he is forced to confront the demons that have raged within the church, and to recognize his own complicity in their propagation, within both the institution and his own family. A novel as intimate as it is universal, A History of Loneliness is about the stories we tell ourselves to make peace with our lives. It confirms Boyne as one of the most searching storytellers of his generation.

30 review for A History of Loneliness

  1. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    my heart is aching right now. john boyne has the unparalleled ability to take a character, who couldnt be any more different from me, and make me feel such emotion for them. what a powerful talent that is for an author, and an even more amazing experience for the reader. i know next to nothing about the catholic church. other than having a few friends who go mass with their families on holidays, the catholic church really has no effect on my life. but that did not stop me from being touched by o my heart is aching right now. john boyne has the unparalleled ability to take a character, who couldnt be any more different from me, and make me feel such emotion for them. what a powerful talent that is for an author, and an even more amazing experience for the reader. i know next to nothing about the catholic church. other than having a few friends who go mass with their families on holidays, the catholic church really has no effect on my life. but that did not stop me from being touched by odrans story, his struggle, his loneliness. how difficult it must have been/must be for so many actual priests, who have had to experience odrans story in reality. i cant imagine the amount of faith it must take an individual to continue on in their calling after such dark misdeeds shake everything they thought they knew and believed. there has always been such a focus on the uncountable number of young victims (and rightly so) but i have never given much thought about how the priests who did nothing wrong must have also been affected. gosh. what an emotionally raw and morally difficult story - a story of loneliness, faith, tenderness, trials, and guilt - to get through. simply heartbreaking. simply phenomenal. ↠ 5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I need to give this 5 stars because the writing was superb and, well, it’s John Boyne.. a favorite. This is the story of an Irish boy, Odran Yates, and his path to priesthood. He is a very good man and he becomes aware, at too late of a time, about the abuses going on in the Catholic Church. This covers the years of his life between 1964 and 2013. Father Odran is such a loving character, and as the awareness unfolds in him, he makes himself accountable for the sins of others. Boyne takes us into th I need to give this 5 stars because the writing was superb and, well, it’s John Boyne.. a favorite. This is the story of an Irish boy, Odran Yates, and his path to priesthood. He is a very good man and he becomes aware, at too late of a time, about the abuses going on in the Catholic Church. This covers the years of his life between 1964 and 2013. Father Odran is such a loving character, and as the awareness unfolds in him, he makes himself accountable for the sins of others. Boyne takes us into this dark and troubled history of the church with a gripping story, with much depth and sadness.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    Testing...testing...is this thing on? Ahem....tap tap tap tap...can y'all hear me in the back?....quiet, quiet please...we're about to get started, y'all. Please, if you'll all take your seats this will only take a moment and then you can get back to your books. *crowd ssshhhhhhhh's the rude folk* Thank you, thank you, I'll make this brief. A History of Loneliness by John Boyne is just...meh. Please calm down. No need to panic. People, please for the sake of the children, compose yourselves! Secur Testing...testing...is this thing on? Ahem....tap tap tap tap...can y'all hear me in the back?....quiet, quiet please...we're about to get started, y'all. Please, if you'll all take your seats this will only take a moment and then you can get back to your books. *crowd ssshhhhhhhh's the rude folk* Thank you, thank you, I'll make this brief. A History of Loneliness by John Boyne is just...meh. Please calm down. No need to panic. People, please for the sake of the children, compose yourselves! Security? Security?? SECURITY!!! *Despite this latest revelation, I will be continuing my quest to read every one of his books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    Odran Yates attends the seminary in the 1970's. After a family tragedy, his mother has a "revelation" that priesthood was his calling. A very passive person, Odran goes along with her wishes. The book follows his path through seminary, his duties in Rome, his postings, his family and his involvement in the pedophile scandals. It is incredibly moving watching him walk a straight and very narrow path. He calls it being naïve but it is really blinders. He chooses not to see and it is a choice. It Odran Yates attends the seminary in the 1970's. After a family tragedy, his mother has a "revelation" that priesthood was his calling. A very passive person, Odran goes along with her wishes. The book follows his path through seminary, his duties in Rome, his postings, his family and his involvement in the pedophile scandals. It is incredibly moving watching him walk a straight and very narrow path. He calls it being naïve but it is really blinders. He chooses not to see and it is a choice. It reminded me on Germany in WWII when people made the choice to ignore what was happening around them. Or in the U.S. in the 1950's when "separate but equal" guidelines were in practice. Or in more examples that I can count. How many times have we turned our heads rather than deal with the situation? It is also the pain the people in power knew and covered it up. So many suffered because of that decision. It is reprehensible. I was interested in his distaste for the Polish priest and his hints of the murder of John Paul I. I loved the line about the Fianna Fail crooks whom would be elected again in a couple of years. Here we sit in a country full of crooks and idiots in our Congress and they keep getting reelected. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time and I couldn't recommend it more highly.

  5. 5 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    Very easily a 5★ from me. Odran Yates is a sensitive and compelling character dealing with private guilt, public betrayal by his church and his fellow priests, and his own innermost feelings of love and loss. I’m linking you to Eileen’s review because frankly, she says it better than I ever could: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Hauntingly sad, yet compulsively readable, this book revolved around the widespread child abuse in Ireland under the mantle of the Catholic Church. The author captures the prevailing thought patterns of the time convincingly. There was a common hope, an expectation even, that one child per family would choose to enter the priesthood. Priests, as highly respected authority figures, were pillars of the community, and the betrayal of this trust was a tragedy with ever widening currents. The reader Hauntingly sad, yet compulsively readable, this book revolved around the widespread child abuse in Ireland under the mantle of the Catholic Church. The author captures the prevailing thought patterns of the time convincingly. There was a common hope, an expectation even, that one child per family would choose to enter the priesthood. Priests, as highly respected authority figures, were pillars of the community, and the betrayal of this trust was a tragedy with ever widening currents. The reader is privy to the inertia which gripped so many. Somehow, if a person didn't want it to be true and ignored it, then maybe it wouldn’t be true after all, or it would go away. One sees the cruelty, the flagrant abuse of power, and the resulting damage visited on individuals as well as entire families. Also, the guilt, the self-loathing of those who stood by, or looked the other way, is powerfully rendered. While A History of Loneliness is deeply disturbing, the underlying rage is tempered with empathy on some level. An incredible novel!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    ”And as I drove back through the streets toward the comfort of my lonely bed, I knew without question that the world as I had always known it and the faith that I had put in it were about to come to an end, and who knew what would take its place?” Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease / Dementia, Pedophilia and the Catholic Church are front and center in this novel, as well as tragedy, how an event witnessed as a young child can change how you process traumatic events. ”How can something still feel s ”And as I drove back through the streets toward the comfort of my lonely bed, I knew without question that the world as I had always known it and the faith that I had put in it were about to come to an end, and who knew what would take its place?” Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease / Dementia, Pedophilia and the Catholic Church are front and center in this novel, as well as tragedy, how an event witnessed as a young child can change how you process traumatic events. ”How can something still feel so painful after twenty-eight years? I asked myself. Is there no recovery from the traumas of our youth?” This is not a subtle book, the message is clear and the anger that is felt throughout this story is shared through the words of Odran Yates, told in different times in his life, from his younger years through his life as a priest in Ireland. Indeed, this story hops around in time, back and forth, and it is only later in this novel where that which is hinted at early on takes front and center stage. Odran enters the seminary at the age of 17, and Tom Cardle, who is Odran’s roommate, enters his life. Tom, who has no desire to be there, who is being forced by his physically abusive father, befriends Odran, who seems to have led a fairly sheltered life. They remain friends after Tom leaves when he is assigned to a parish. And then a few years later, to another parish. And then another. Odran views these transfers as being unfair to Tom, and continues to live his life, hiding from what he does not want to see. ”What a world it is that we live in and what injuries we do to children.” There were parts in this that felt a bit convoluted, particularly when Odran is sent as the one chosen student to take his final year of studies in Rome. Once there, in a meeting with the Monsignor, having received great reports on him, he rather inexplicably becomes a tea server for Pope John Paul I, staying nearby during the night. Until one night when he is overcome by his obsession over a waitress, a barista, a desire to know more of her, if not a desire to know her in the biblical sense. ”The sensation that for the world to exist with an object of such beauty in it—and for that object to be unattainable—was the very sweetest kind of pain imaginable.” If that part felt a tad bit convoluted to me, Boyne more than made up for it with his dialogue, seasoned with Irish phrases, which flows effortlessly, moving the story along, clear and pointed when it needs to be in the unraveling of the sexual abuse scandal involving the church who plays the “see no evil” card. Boyne’s passionate reproof is keenly felt for those guilty of these heinous acts, but is tempered somewhat by his feeling that there are priests, like Odran, whose sin was his failure to perceive what was before his eyes, and yet he did not see. Not an absolution, mind you, but then Odran doesn’t seem to be seeking one. ”What kind of life was this? I wondered. To what sort of an organization had I dedicated my life? And even as I searched for blame, I knew that a darkness was stirring inside me concerning my own complicity, for I had seen things and I had suspected things and I had turned away from things and I had done nothing.” ”If I cannot see some good in all of us and hope that the pain we all share will come to an end, what kind of priest am I anyway? What kind of man?” In the Acknowledgements, Boyne offers this dedication: ”It is impossible to estimate the number of children who suffered in Ireland at the hands of the Catholic Church, nor is it easy to guess the number of dedicated and honest priests who have seen their lives and vocations tarnished by the actions of their colleagues. "This novel is dedicated to all these victims; may they have happier times ahead.“

  8. 5 out of 5

    HP Saucerer

    A History of Loneliness focuses on the life of Odran Yates, an Irish priest caught at the centre of the child abuse scandal that devastated the Catholic Church. It reads like an extended examination of conscience with Odran looking back on his life, trying to determine if he is as innocent as he has presumed himself to be. ”I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life.” The narrative transports us to different times in Odran’s life - his childhood in Du A History of Loneliness focuses on the life of Odran Yates, an Irish priest caught at the centre of the child abuse scandal that devastated the Catholic Church. It reads like an extended examination of conscience with Odran looking back on his life, trying to determine if he is as innocent as he has presumed himself to be. ”I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life.” The narrative transports us to different times in Odran’s life - his childhood in Dublin, a family holiday in Wexford, his time in the seminary, his ordination in Rome - and we quickly begin to see how, through his lack of intervention and his willingness to look away, he is complicit in the abuses carried out within the Church. Although he’s weak and passive, Odran isn’t a despicable character. Sure, he’s no saint, but he’s a good man and dedicated to his vocation. As readers, we’re challenged to ask ourselves if, in the same situation, we would we have acted any differently. The book reads like an indictment against the Church, shining a light on the dangers of enabling one institution to wield so much power over a society and Boyne, at times, uses the novel to vent the deep anger he feels towards this institution. This was an achingly sad and deeply moving story about faith, family, the role of fathers, both biological and spiritual, abuse, the loss of friendship and courage. In the hands of a lesser writer, the complex narration and passionate denunciation of the Catholic Church, would likely have fallen short. Absolutely masterful storytelling. I’ll definitely be back for more Boyne.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    2.5 stars "Father Odran Yates is dedicated to his vocation since entering Clonliffe College seminary at seventeen. He has lived through betrayal, controversy and public condemnation of some of his dearest friends. Through all of this he has remained firm to his beliefs" A History of Loneliness by John Boyne was a book I had been so looking forward to reading as John Boyne is one of my favourite writers. I was intrigued when I read the blurb of this book and looked forward to how Boyne would tac 2.5 stars "Father Odran Yates is dedicated to his vocation since entering Clonliffe College seminary at seventeen. He has lived through betrayal, controversy and public condemnation of some of his dearest friends. Through all of this he has remained firm to his beliefs" A History of Loneliness by John Boyne was a book I had been so looking forward to reading as John Boyne is one of my favourite writers. I was intrigued when I read the blurb of this book and looked forward to how Boyne would tackle this tough time in the Catholic Church and Ireland. For me the book failed for a number of reasons and firstly the story didn't flow for me I just felt disconnected from the characters and it didn't capture my interest as much as it should have. It took me a considerable length of time to finish the novel and this was because I became bored with the story and felt it was full of cliches. There was many times when reading the book that I grew tired of conversations and situations that seem predictable and over written. I do appreciate on one level that a book like this highlights the abuse that was hidden within the Catholic Church for many years here in Ireland and the suffering families still live with many years later. I think a novel like this is a good reminder of how religion and power can become obsessive and corrupt. I felt by the end of the book I hadn't learned anything I didn't know from the media already and the story or the characters didn't have any great impact on me. An ok read but not one I will be recommending.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    While A History of Loneliness is an aptly named title for this disturbing story of the child abuse cover-up surrounding the Irish Catholic Church, it was just an ok read for me compared to others I've enjoyed from John Boyne.Overall, I found it somewhat slow going with the abuser obvious to the reader early on, but disappointingly not to Father Odran Yates.......I found him to be rather annoyingly naive for an educated man and particularly insensitive and weak for a man of the cloth.A tough, but While A History of Loneliness is an aptly named title for this disturbing story of the child abuse cover-up surrounding the Irish Catholic Church, it was just an ok read for me compared to others I've enjoyed from John Boyne.Overall, I found it somewhat slow going with the abuser obvious to the reader early on, but disappointingly not to Father Odran Yates.......I found him to be rather annoyingly naive for an educated man and particularly insensitive and weak for a man of the cloth.A tough, but noteworthy read (that made me mad!)Update: June 12, 2015 Finally catching up on some movies and Doubt did not disappoint. Agree with GR friends Eve and Carol...it was excellent with great acting by Meryl Streep and Phillip Seamore Hoffman. (enjoyed being able to see another PSH flick too)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life. Last year I read The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne and loved them both. I am very happy to say that A History of Loneliness did not disappoint at all. As always, John Boyne’s gift in creating authentic, fully developed characters shines through. I really liked Father Odran Yates, and enjoyed seeing the world through his quiet, almost passive point of view. The author writes I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life. Last year I read The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne and loved them both. I am very happy to say that A History of Loneliness did not disappoint at all. As always, John Boyne’s gift in creating authentic, fully developed characters shines through. I really liked Father Odran Yates, and enjoyed seeing the world through his quiet, almost passive point of view. The author writes with intelligence, empathy and subtle humor. Although the plot focuses on the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church, and how this has changed the religious landscape in Ireland, it is also a very personal look at the feelings of regret the main protagonist experience about actions not taken. This personal element really resonated with me as we are all guilty of the sin of omission at some time or another. As I adore all things Irish, so it comes as no surprise that John Boyne is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Any recommendations on what my next book by him should be?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nicole~

    St. Patrick has been mythologized as having driven all the snakes out of Ireland, a biblical reference that author John Boyne symbolically dispels in A History of Loneliness, suggesting that the fork-tongued creatures with a primary concern for self-preservation in an institution that has become a worldwide money-making business, rather than uphold its fundamental pledge to protect and to guide its flock to ultimate morality and spiritual health, still infest the Emerald Isle preying on its unsu St. Patrick has been mythologized as having driven all the snakes out of Ireland, a biblical reference that author John Boyne symbolically dispels in A History of Loneliness, suggesting that the fork-tongued creatures with a primary concern for self-preservation in an institution that has become a worldwide money-making business, rather than uphold its fundamental pledge to protect and to guide its flock to ultimate morality and spiritual health, still infest the Emerald Isle preying on its unsuspecting innocents: all the children who suffer unto Him. Boyne weaves actual pedophile crimes of a Dublin priest ( Tony Walsh convicted in 2010), which were, even though known by the Archdiocese as far back as the 1970s*, allowed to continue for decades, concealed by the highest authorities in the Vatican who turned its back, closed its eyes, plugged its ears, and covered its mouth, all to protect its 'Firm.' Odran Yates is the novel's narrator whose tragic family story starts as early as his boyhood, with the drowning of his younger brother by his father, the latter afterwards committing suicide. Honorable and gentle-natured as Odran is, he sincerely believes he has found his true vocation by entering the priesthood, but when he's called upon to replace his best friend, Father Tom Cardle, at one of the many parishes Cardle had been assigned over the years: needling questions of the goodness of his calling begin to surface. The tale of Odran's revelations and eventual self-awareness moves in a painful, heartbreaking path, treading in guilt-leaden steps with what seems to be his worst failings as a priest and spiritual adviser - emotional connection, keen sense of observation, deep insight and basic instinct. As Boyne meticulously works the true events into the novel, we observe the 'selective' blindness of those who should have seen, the guilt of those who did not intervene, the anguish and torment of the victims and their families whose lips were forced into silence, the scalding anger of the community no longer trusting the 'man of the cloth,' calling for [the snakes] to: "Get out! Get out of Ireland!" But nothing compares to the immoral principles of the duplicitous organization - who concealed the whole affair and remained unapologetic for it - exposed in the polarizing radio interview with Archbishop Cordington, through which Boyne artfully reflects the findings of the Murphy Report. I've liked the few books of John Boyne that I've read: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, This House is Haunted, The Absolutist ; without a doubt, A History of Loneliness is for me the saddest, most compelling and his best written to date. * See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010... and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma Flanagan

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Rarely has a quote summed up a book so well. Odran Yates is a good man (probably) however he is also naive and prefers to ignore things which he finds uncomfortable. The book follows him from his childhood in 1960’s Ireland to middle age in the present day, from the last glory days of the Catholic Church in Ireland to its death throes. A man destined to be uninspiring, Odran’s mother pushes him into the priesthood at “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Rarely has a quote summed up a book so well. Odran Yates is a good man (probably) however he is also naive and prefers to ignore things which he finds uncomfortable. The book follows him from his childhood in 1960’s Ireland to middle age in the present day, from the last glory days of the Catholic Church in Ireland to its death throes. A man destined to be uninspiring, Odran’s mother pushes him into the priesthood at a time when having a priest in the family was a still subject of pride. For those who may find that concept difficult to appreciate, there was a time in Ireland when having a priest in the family held the same status as having a doctor in the family does in many cultures. It was a big deal, and something to be lauded over the neighbours. Odran is a deeply irritating character, not necessarily unlikable he’s too insipid for that, but none the less irritating. I honestly can’t decide whether he is as naive as he acts, or just in denial and unable to face the corruption and evil surrounding him. He seems to shy away from what would be blatantly obvious to anyone else in his position. Honestly it is a book full of unlikeable characters. There are no heroes here. Odran’s mother, admittedly due to the harsh hand life has dealt her, is a bitter woman and religious fanatic. Classic Legion of Mary type. Then there is Tom Cardle, once a sympathetic character who becomes completely corrupt and loses all sense of right and wrong, viewing himself as a victim. To be fair he was once a victim but by the end he is also a perpetrator, forfeiting any sympathy we once had. The Archbishop is almost a caricature, full of his own importance, and the divine rights of the Church. He hawks back to what he views as the glory days of John Charles McQuaid, a very real Archbishop of Dublin renowned for his conservatism and the unimaginable (now anyway or indeed to anyone outside of Ireland) power he exerted over politicians, judges, the Garda, the media and indeed every institution of public life. What he said went, went. The only likeable characters are really Hannah, Odran’s strong willed sister, and Pope John Paul I. Hannah refuses to bow to parental pressure and is extremely cynical of the Church when it was still not entirely acceptable to voice such things. At Odran’s ordination she remarks of Pope John Paul II, a man held in deep reverence in Ireland for many years, “That man hates women”. She isn’t entirely wrong. The Church , at least in Ireland had a rather dysfunctional relationship with women to put it mildly. Pope John Paul I is presented as the only person within the Church willing to deal with the corruption which had engrossed it, both in terms of the Vatican Bank and the “problems” in Ireland. Pity he was only Pope for thirty three days. I have no idea how accurate a portrayal it is, but the impression I got was had Pope John Paul I survived history would have been a very different. This is a bleak book. There’s no two ways about it. Both Odran and the reader are forced to consider how events in Ireland, both within the Church and within society, were allowed to occur. Whether it was the abuse of children at the hands of those charged with their care, or the maddness of the Celtic Tiger, we are left wondering what has happened to this country of our. How did we let this happen? Did we know and choose to ignore it? Why did we let evil endure? Yet for all that I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a masterpiece critique of Ireland. Boyne really does not pull the punches. His own concerns, fears and dissatisfaction leap off the page. It is a book all who want to understand Ireland should read. It is a welcome and extreme counterbalance to the twee romantic nonsense that so many believe. This is Ireland, though I hold out more hope for my country then Boyne appears to. I cannot believe that: Ireland is rotten. Rotten to the core. Am I as naive as Odran, or just not yet as cynical as Boyne?

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Bartlett

    I never really give a book 5 stars but this is one that richly deserved it. As a former Catholic priest I was totally convinced of the story of Fr Odran Yates, an Irish priest full of idealism but naive and conservative who is caught up in the scandals of the abuse of children by Irish clergy. This is a harrowing story but totally authentic. Although my experience was not in the Irish Church the story in Australia has been similar with not only the abuse but the cover-up by those in power a scand I never really give a book 5 stars but this is one that richly deserved it. As a former Catholic priest I was totally convinced of the story of Fr Odran Yates, an Irish priest full of idealism but naive and conservative who is caught up in the scandals of the abuse of children by Irish clergy. This is a harrowing story but totally authentic. Although my experience was not in the Irish Church the story in Australia has been similar with not only the abuse but the cover-up by those in power a scandal that still cries out for some redress. Boyne has succeeded in presenting this story not as a dry diatribe but through the eyes of human and emotive characters. The dialogue is completely believable and the historical background totally authentic. The clever device of introducing papal characters add a whole new level to the story, especially highlighting the role and the sudden death of Pope John Paul I. Here in Australia some of the horrors of child sexual abuse by priests is still slowly being revealed. It can hardly be less than what happened in Ireland.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I was unsure until the end whether or not I was going to give this book 5 stars. Boyne creates a complex portrait of a priest in Ireland before, during and in the aftermath of the clerical abuse scandals. Odran Yates went to the seminary in the early 1970's, at a time when most Irish families yearned to have a son become a priest. Boyne's story describes how young these boys were, and naive. Many did not have vocation, in the sense that Catholics understand vocations. Some were forced into the p I was unsure until the end whether or not I was going to give this book 5 stars. Boyne creates a complex portrait of a priest in Ireland before, during and in the aftermath of the clerical abuse scandals. Odran Yates went to the seminary in the early 1970's, at a time when most Irish families yearned to have a son become a priest. Boyne's story describes how young these boys were, and naive. Many did not have vocation, in the sense that Catholics understand vocations. Some were forced into the priesthood. Odran Yates lives a simple but "charmed" life as a teacher in a boy's school in Dublin. The construction of the story, moving between present and past, kept me engaged. Yates discovers truths about the abuse that has been allowed to fester and grow for decades. And by the end of the novel, he learns truths about himself and his life. Another remarkable novel from Boyne.

  16. 4 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    I had put off reading this book because of a fear of encountering a similarly disturbing graphic account that I read a decade ago, a book written by a priest who’d endured years of psychological and physical abuse by teachers at a Scottish boarding school. Boyne’s book certainly has the atrocious abuse inflicted on many young boys and men as a central theme but the tone is subtle and this for a good reason. For me that was also the strength of the book. The main character is a priest who comes a I had put off reading this book because of a fear of encountering a similarly disturbing graphic account that I read a decade ago, a book written by a priest who’d endured years of psychological and physical abuse by teachers at a Scottish boarding school. Boyne’s book certainly has the atrocious abuse inflicted on many young boys and men as a central theme but the tone is subtle and this for a good reason. For me that was also the strength of the book. The main character is a priest who comes across as caring and empathetic but also a person who is unable to open his eyes to what his superiors and colleagues are actively, often viciously suppressing and covering up under a shroud of deception and arrogance. Silence is the criminal in this book as much as the active perpetrators. Silence is the co-conspirator of violence and makes for a painful as well as important read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    This book made me so incredibly sad, no surprise given its subject matter -- the sex abuse crisis in the Irish Catholic Church. I grew so frustrated in the main character, Father Ordan Yates, and his inability/refusal to see what was really happening around him. But the more I read, the more I appreciated Boyne's choice to tell the story from the perspective of someone within the church. In the end, it all felt honest. Incredibly sad, but honest. I couldn't put this one down.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. This deeply unsettling and powerful novel is a penetrating exploration of Edmund Burke’s words. Odran Yates is a good man who wants to carry out faithfully his duties as a priest. But all around him the Catholic Church is disintegrating as the extent of the child sexual abuse within it is being revealed. At one time the power and control of the Catholic Church in Ireland was unquestioned. Odran now has to navigate his w “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. This deeply unsettling and powerful novel is a penetrating exploration of Edmund Burke’s words. Odran Yates is a good man who wants to carry out faithfully his duties as a priest. But all around him the Catholic Church is disintegrating as the extent of the child sexual abuse within it is being revealed. At one time the power and control of the Catholic Church in Ireland was unquestioned. Odran now has to navigate his way through a new world and as he does so he questions, as does the reader, his own complicity in what has been going on. This is the first Irish novel to tackle the subject and it does it brilliantly. Expertly paced, we gradually find out or at least guess what Odran himself refuses to acknowledge. How many others, priests and laymen, are guilty by association, complicit by turning a blind eye? Thought-provoking, disturbing, and very sad, this unflinching look at the Catholic Church, full of insight and compassion – and, of course, anger – is on the one hand a brilliantly sensitive piece of storytelling and on the other an incisive examination of evil. A wonderful book, which will haunt me for a long time, and one of my reading highlights for 2014.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This book has made me realise something, that when I read a book, especially a book which looks deeply into something so profound as the subject matter in this story, the abuse of children by priests, my perception of what I’m reading is not only influenced by the pages in front of me, but by other books I’ve read in the past, and, of course, by the real history of such a subject that I’ve actually lived through by means of television and news reporting. Reading books such as Trinity by Leon Uris This book has made me realise something, that when I read a book, especially a book which looks deeply into something so profound as the subject matter in this story, the abuse of children by priests, my perception of what I’m reading is not only influenced by the pages in front of me, but by other books I’ve read in the past, and, of course, by the real history of such a subject that I’ve actually lived through by means of television and news reporting. Reading books such as Trinity by Leon Uris. which when I read it, gave me an insight into just how much power the local priest had over the everyday lives of parishioners, did help me understand why these Priests were so trusted, and why they were allowed to influence their parishioners lives to the extent they did. The book The Wonder by Emma Donoghue shone light on the all encompassing power this church had in shaping the thinking and actions of some of its followers. Both books highlighted the unquestioning loyalty of many of this church’s congregations, and so, shed at least a little light on why this tragedy went on happening for so long.....it was just so unbelievable, that it seemed impossible that it could be happening. This subject is hard to read about, and even harder to understand.... Why did it happen....how did it go on for so long without anyone stopping it....who could have intervened and saved so much suffering, why didn’t they? It’s a huge subject, and my understanding of it obviously only just scratches the surface. John Boyne has tackled the hugely difficult subject of paedophilia within the Catholic Church by telling the life story of Odran Yates, a boy who becomes a good priest, but who must one day, ask himself some very difficult questions. This isn’t a graphic book, the author is subtle in how he tells this story, but that doesn’t take anything away from its impact, and John Boyne’s anger is, understandably, very apparent. It’s a very good book, the story of Odran, his family, his friends and his superiors is very readable, interesting, heartbreaking and moving. In my humble opinion, another masterpiece from this brilliant author.....

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    John Boyne takes a difficult subject - sexual abuse in the Catholic church - and reflects on it over several decades through the eyes of Odran, a Catholic priest from Dublin. I found it thoughtful and honest, and the author's note at the end tells that he spoke to quite a few Irish Catholic priests to build his characters. I loved the dialogue with its Irishisms, "sure if I..." and "himself." Some of the moments are incredible cringeworthy moments, which of course speaks to Boyne's writing. I lik John Boyne takes a difficult subject - sexual abuse in the Catholic church - and reflects on it over several decades through the eyes of Odran, a Catholic priest from Dublin. I found it thoughtful and honest, and the author's note at the end tells that he spoke to quite a few Irish Catholic priests to build his characters. I loved the dialogue with its Irishisms, "sure if I..." and "himself." Some of the moments are incredible cringeworthy moments, which of course speaks to Boyne's writing. I like how he explores not just the scandal and not just the victims, but the church and its community that is left afterward. By going backwards and forwards in time he is able to show a lot of contrast. I'm not Irish, I'm not Catholic, but it just hurts anyway.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    The novel that kept me thinking about while I was not reading it .....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    I'm not sure how I should write about A History of Loneliness by John Boyne. It's a book that made me want to throw my kobo against the wall. I think that's what Boyne wanted, for people to be angry about sexual abuse within the Catholic church, but my anger at this book wasn't for that; my anger at this book was for how glossy it was. My anger at this book was for how insensitive Father Odran Yates, the protagonist, is. My anger at this book is just all encompassing and I want to stop reviewing I'm not sure how I should write about A History of Loneliness by John Boyne. It's a book that made me want to throw my kobo against the wall. I think that's what Boyne wanted, for people to be angry about sexual abuse within the Catholic church, but my anger at this book wasn't for that; my anger at this book was for how glossy it was. My anger at this book was for how insensitive Father Odran Yates, the protagonist, is. My anger at this book is just all encompassing and I want to stop reviewing and never have to think of it again. Every comment I made in the (electronic) margins on my kobo is caustic and rude and I am going to try and smooth them out and hopefully not give into the nauseated feeling in my stomach. So we have a priest, Father Odran Yates. He is a good priest, feels the calling of God, enjoys his priesthood. There's some unnecessary intrigue when he's sent to the Vatican and is embroiled in the deaths of Pope John Paul I and whoever was before Pope John Paul I (my Catholic family members are pretty embarrassed for me right now, not knowing who came before Pope John Paul I). The novel suggests that Pope John Paul I was going to do something about some nascent scandal within the Irish Catholic church, which the reader assumes to be the rampant sexual abuse, and hints that Pope John Paul I was murdered for this. The novel then becomes quite scathing against Pope John Paul I's successor, Pope John Paul II. Less hints this time: That man hates women. Direct quote. There's also some unnecessary back story about Yates' brother who drowned and Yates' widowed sister with dementia that could be excised completely without much fuss, although I suppose it's meant to counter the argument that people with lousy upbringings will do lousy things, like rape children. Because Yates had a lousy upbringing and still managed to keep his penis to himself. Back to Father Odran Yates, who, for the most part, is upset regarding the unrestrained sexual abuse by priests because it makes him look bad. It means people don't respect him on the Luas. It means men are angry with him in coffee shops. It means that he grows tired of having a chaperone when he talks to his altar boys. For something like eighty percent of the novel, Yates does not seem to understand that this is not about him. People are rightly angry because of the years of abuse perpetrated by the church. He has no compassion for the victims of sexual abuse, instead painting himself as the true victim in all this. This infuriates me. I am incensed. It's taken me hours to write this review because I get so angry and I have to walk away. I suppose he comes around when he realizes that his friend, another priest, sexually assaulted Odran's nephew (which he then makes about himself, visiting the nephew even though the nephew has cut off all contact with Yates, because Yates needs the nephew to absolve him. Yep, back to what Yates needs rather than what anyone else does), but for a priest who goes on and on about how this is his true calling, he seems to have no ability for humility and no compassion. No Matthew 9:36 (Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd) for Yates. This is all about him. The book ends with Yates realizing he must have known about other abuses, but chose to look away. The End. No self reflection or anything about this. Just stop. Ignoring the repugnance of the plot, the writing is all right. Not spectacular, and I'm still biased towards spectacular Irish writing after my time with Frank O'Connor earlier this winter. It's really slick, the writing. It's not uncomfortable the way it should be to reflect the content. I know that seems like an odd criticism, that the writing is too smooth for the context, but I can think of no other way to put it. Facile maybe? I know people are going to connect with this book and it'll likely sell millions of copies (the author also wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), but there's no depth. It's like a puddle rather than a sea. You want some amazing writing about Ireland: read Frank O'Connor. You want a meaningful fictitious book on sexual abuse within the Catholic church: read The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre instead. A History of Loneliness by John Boyne went on sale September 11, 2014. I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Compulsively readable novel with a very likable protagonist, despite his complicity and naïveté. His sheer honesty throughout the book is what did me in. The writing style was right up my alley, too. I really enjoyed this book and rarely wanted to step away. I look forward to reading more Boyne novels.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allan

    This novel, Boyne's twelfth, is the first he has written that features Ireland, and in it he tackles probably the most difficult issue Ireland has had to face, and one that has left an indelible mark on society-the issue of clerical sexual abuse. The novel is told from the point of view of Ordran Yates, a priest who entered the seminary in 1972, and time shifts allow him to tell his story, from his childhood, through his complex family relationships and tragedies, to his seminary training and eve This novel, Boyne's twelfth, is the first he has written that features Ireland, and in it he tackles probably the most difficult issue Ireland has had to face, and one that has left an indelible mark on society-the issue of clerical sexual abuse. The novel is told from the point of view of Ordran Yates, a priest who entered the seminary in 1972, and time shifts allow him to tell his story, from his childhood, through his complex family relationships and tragedies, to his seminary training and eventual priesthood. What we see is a complex character, convinced of the suitability of his calling, angry at how the church has propagated hurt on so many, yet as time goes on, recognising his own complicity in how this has been allowed to happen. It's not an easy read, but at the same time, the book is extremely effective in raising issues from the viewpoint of the clergy, deeply condemnatory of the actions of those that have caused pain, and of the inaction of those that were in a position to stop it, while also questioning the role that wider society played in encouraging individuals into vocations in the first place. The arrogance of many of those in power in the church was frightening. It was fascinating to read the effect that the change in attitude toward the church had on Ordran's wider dealings with outside society, and it's a theme that I'll be keen to discuss with friends who are resident in ROI.  This is only the second of Boyne's novels that I've read, but as with 'The Absolutist', I was impressed with the construction, of how the multi faceted threads of Ordran's life are brought together very effectively in the end. I can only imagine the heart wrenching he must've gone through to write this powerful novel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karl O'

    A remarkably accurate story of Ireland and the church I grew up with, encapsulating the 1960s through 2104. Catholicism and all its hypocrisies as not observed by a "good priest". A completely engaging three gerational family saga. Boyne is an excellent writer.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Danby

    I don’t normally start a book review by talking about a completely different book, but I will today so bear with me. John Boyne is probably best known for ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, a book about a young German boy during World War Two who moves to a house in the country where he makes friends with Schmuel, a boy who lives at the other side of a wire fence. Written for ‘younger readers’ it is the story of Bruno’s transition from childhood innocence to horrific understanding, the book was m I don’t normally start a book review by talking about a completely different book, but I will today so bear with me. John Boyne is probably best known for ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, a book about a young German boy during World War Two who moves to a house in the country where he makes friends with Schmuel, a boy who lives at the other side of a wire fence. Written for ‘younger readers’ it is the story of Bruno’s transition from childhood innocence to horrific understanding, the book was made into a film starring David Thewlis. Despite the label ‘for younger readers’ this, and Boyne’s more recent First World War novel ‘Stay Where You Are & Then Leave’, provide food for thought for adult readers too. So with that in mind I came to ‘A History of Loneliness’, Boyne’s latest adult novel, excepting a harrowing storyline which tackles emotional and difficult issues with honesty. I was not disappointed. When I look back at the books I’ve most enjoyed reading, so far this year, Irish writers rank highly – particularly ‘A Long Long Way’ by Sebastian Barry. ‘The History of Loneliness’ is a depressing title – it has to be about loneliness, doesn’t it? Yes, but it’s about so much more – the soul of a boy growing up in 1960s Ireland and becoming a priest, it’s about guilt and responsibility and honesty [with oneself, with others]. And, given its setting and time, it is about the Catholic church in Ireland and child abuse. But it is not a depressing novel. It is the story of Odran Yates’s journey from childhood to seminary to adulthood, via Rome where he serves tea to two Popes, back to Ireland where he watches from the sidelines as one then another trusted Irish priest is convicted of child abuse. It is an unexpected page turner. Boyne drops hints at ‘things that happened’, enough to make you want to know what. He maintains the suspense by telling Odran’s story in disparate chunks – the first four chapters move from 2001 to 2006, 1964 to 1980 – answering some questions and asking new ones, and weaving in the story of Odran’s sister Hannah and her family. Some bits made me chuckle, some made me laugh out loud, others brought a lump to my throat. A favourite was the discussion with Katherine Summers, a neighbour of the Yates who cycles by wearing short skirts to the horror of all the Catholic mothers, about the naughty bits in ‘The Godfather’. Most of all, this book tells the story of the priesthood from the 1960s when the word of the priest was God, to 2008 when a stranger spits in Odran’s face because he is a priest wearing a black suit and a white plastic collar. I’ve found a new author to explore, and that is always exciting.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donna McCaul Thibodeau

    This was one powerful book. The subject matter has been in the news for a while now and the Catholic church is struggling because of it. The story is of Odran, a priest who seems to be so passive that you want to shake him. He realizes the abuse that is going on but refuses to "see" it. Does that make him as bad as the ones who actually commit the crimes? I would not say that he is a likable character but he is one that will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gearóid

    John Boyne is a very versatile writer and each book seems to be completely different. In this book he tackles a very sensitive and shameful subject of child abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church in Ireland. This story is based on events that happened at at time when the Catholic Church had too much power and controlled people's lives in Ireland for too long. Things have changed now thankfully but the people are still suffering and fighting for justice. This story was brilliantly told and real John Boyne is a very versatile writer and each book seems to be completely different. In this book he tackles a very sensitive and shameful subject of child abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church in Ireland. This story is based on events that happened at at time when the Catholic Church had too much power and controlled people's lives in Ireland for too long. Things have changed now thankfully but the people are still suffering and fighting for justice. This story was brilliantly told and really moving and at times upsetting. The end of the book is really powerful and emotional. Highly recommend.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    The haunting, "A History of Loneliness" authored by Irish novelist John Boyne examine the cultural and political forces of the Irish Catholic church and faith, that promote what some call "the conspiracy of silence". This silence led to the large recent scandals of the Catholic faith that involved the governing body of church hierarchy, threatening and rocking Catholicism to the core. Boyne covers the religious themes involving the darkest side of humanity with tremendous compassion resolve and The haunting, "A History of Loneliness" authored by Irish novelist John Boyne examine the cultural and political forces of the Irish Catholic church and faith, that promote what some call "the conspiracy of silence". This silence led to the large recent scandals of the Catholic faith that involved the governing body of church hierarchy, threatening and rocking Catholicism to the core. Boyne covers the religious themes involving the darkest side of humanity with tremendous compassion resolve and insight. Father Odran Yates narrates this story, visiting his widowed sister who has early onset dementia. Greatly concerned, he meets with his nephew later, who is a famous author. Another nephew Adian, left Ireland and seemingly wanted nothing to do with the family. Perplexed by this, Father Yates traces his family history back in time, and tells his story from past to present. He tries to understand and gain insight to family difficulties. With a troubling family history, his father and 5 year old brother drowned in an apparent murder-suicide. His widowed mother sought solace in the church and convinced Odran that her epiphany revealed he was to be a priest. In 1973, Odran entered seminary at Conliffe College, and discovered that the order and rigid structure suited him, and he did remarkably well. This was not the case for his best friend Tom Cardle, who said: "Just because you're happy here Odran, doesn't mean everyone else is." One day, he discovered Cardle was missing without a word. Cardle was returned to the school by an angry dominant father, insisting he finish seminary. It was curiously interesting to note that the friendship of these two "best friends" never developed beyond a superficial level. Odran was eventually selected for service to the Pope, and further education in Rome. In Rome, Odran becomes obsessed with a young lady in a coffee bar, and stalked her for months. Knowing his behavior was wrong, he felt guilt and shame. It was unclear if he learned anything from the incident before he was assigned to teach at a small school. After the years had passed, he was assigned to take Father Cardle's place who had been curiously moved over eleven times. Father Yates was upset over the seemingly unjust situation involving his friend. Naturally Father Yates is shocked and outraged when Tom Cardle is charged with indecent contact with minor children over the years from his parish. Public opinion of respectable priest's changes in an instant, many seem like pedophile's, until public trust is restored. The secure and respectable world as Father Yates had known it, had ended. The worst of it was, his friendship with Father Cardle may have put his own family at risk. In this disturbing read, the reader realizes that the information available is very limited, and this is part of the theme and appeal of the book. There are so many things unsaid, clearly, Father Yates missed his chance to explore the true causes of Tom Cardle's troubled life, and was simply clueless. Was this serious denial, lack of emotional insight, or blissful unawareness? This brilliant novel is centered around these issues, in addition to criminal behavior related to pedophilia. The abrupt ending was surprising, I was hoping it would be neater, easier consciously, though this wasn't the case. Priests are not always the holy men we need or want them to be. This is part of their own truth, humanity, and fact of life.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    4.5, rounded up. My thorough enjoyment of Boyne's latest novel (The Heart's Invisible Furies) led me to try this earlier work, and though it is very different, I still was incredibly impressed by it. 'Heart's' is primarily a comic novel, and while this has a few glimpses of humour, it is essentially the tragic story of fifty years in the life of a rather non-descript priest, who gradually comes to realize his own complicity in looking the other way about the horrendous history of child sexual abu 4.5, rounded up. My thorough enjoyment of Boyne's latest novel (The Heart's Invisible Furies) led me to try this earlier work, and though it is very different, I still was incredibly impressed by it. 'Heart's' is primarily a comic novel, and while this has a few glimpses of humour, it is essentially the tragic story of fifty years in the life of a rather non-descript priest, who gradually comes to realize his own complicity in looking the other way about the horrendous history of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The story shifts backwards and forwards in time, from 1964 to 2013, and while one never really gets lost as to where one is in the story, I am not so sure it wouldn't have been just as effective to tell the story chronologically (and it would be an interesting experiment to place the chapters so, and see how that reads).

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