Man Booker Prize 2017 long-list reading guide: Mike McCormack's Solar Bones, reviewed

Editor's note: Up to 13 September, when the Man Booker Prize 2017 shortlist will be announced, Firstpost will be reviewing all 13 books on the longlist. This is your guide to the Booker contenders, and which ones you should read.

Reading Mike McCormack's hypnotic new novel, one is struck with an overwhelming sense of awe. Taking place in the course of an hour and written in a single unbroken sentence, the book is every bit as extraordinary as its premise.

McCormack, although the winner of the Rooney Prize for Literature for his debut collection of short stories in 1996, remains relatively unknown outside of Ireland. "Disgracefully neglected," even. Solar Bones, his latest, aims to change that.

 Man Booker Prize 2017 long-list reading guide: Mike McCormacks Solar Bones, reviewed

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack is on the Man Booker Prize 2017 long-list

Written with poetic precision, Solar Bones tells the story of one Marcus Conway. An engineer, a husband and a father of two, Conway is suddenly overcome with a sense of unease and anxiousness one day as the Angelus bell rings out in Louisburgh of County Mayo. Standing in his kitchen and unable to understand the reason for the shift in his state, he begins to swim through his memories as he waits for his wife to return home.

And so begins our journey through the rural landscape of Ireland as Conway reflects upon his childhood, his coming of age, his work as a civil engineer, his marriage, and his children. An ordinary enough life made extraordinary by McCormack's breathtaking stream of consciousness prose and a lingering melancholy brought about by his meditation on human nature in all its flaws and triumphs.

Conway dissects his memories with the precision of an engineer. He remembers being in awe of his father as a child and becoming politically conscious as a teenager. He recalls his marriage, the ups, and downs of it. His children and how they have drifted away as adults. His lifelong dedication to his work and his constant struggle against politicians and contractors to do the same with the fineness he desires.

Vivid emotions of all shades dominate the pages as Conway relives his days — from his daughter's shocking art exhibition to his day to day frustrations with the local bodies to his wife's sickness from cryptosporidiosis — all governed by the natural rhythms and politics of the small corner of his world. And all slowly building up to a chilling finale which is bound to leave one breathless.


McCormack's seamless narration stitches together these intricate musings with a technical brilliance and novelty which at times is reminiscent of fellow Irishmen, James Joyce. Although the book is not always evenly paced and there are times when it fails to engage, such instances are few and far in between.

The book, with all its tempers, is moving celebration of the ordinary. Of changing seasons and realities. Life and death. The intertwining of personal elements with those of the political. The every day “rites, rhythms and rituals / upholding the world like solar bones”.

McCormack's triumph here is undeniable as he establishes himself as one of the most exciting contemporary writers.

Updated Date: Sep 09, 2017 11:11:25 IST