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A History of Loneliness by John Boyne

A History of Loneliness (original 2014; edition 2014)

by John Boyne (Author)

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1851563,896 (4.31)7
Title:A History of Loneliness
Authors:John Boyne (Author)
Info:Doubleday (2014)
Collections:Your library

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A History of Loneliness by John Boyne (2014)



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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Very engaging characters with reasonable depth. Interesting perspective and insight into the issues of the catholic church in the 1980s/1990s and the broader impacts. ( )
  MelbourneSharonB | May 3, 2017 |
The events unfolding over the last five years concerning sexual abuse has seen the emergence of a bitter and enraged public calling for justice to be seen to be done and to be done with immediate effect. What has made this all the more shocking is the naming of celebrities who were to many of us cherished and household names, and whose downfall was all the more dramatic. It is impossible to believe that the signs of such abuse were not present or noticed at an earlier time, the fact is it was always there and out of fear or misguided loyalties was simply ignored. In this mishmash of deceit and lies the church (and in particular the catholic church) presented itself as the face of salvation and hope when in reality it's clergy were some of the greatest perpetrators

Ordan Yates is a priest and had always wanted to be a priest since he received "the calling" at an early age. He accepts the ceremony, the conformity, the celibacy and dedicates his life to a greater being knowing whatever the pain, whatever the trial it is god's will. We travel with him back and forth from days of his youth, his intern at college, his administering to the holy pontiff during his time in Rome. We learn of the tragedy in his life; the death of his younger brother Cathal at the hands of his father William, and the demise of his beloved sister Hannah cruelly stricken with dementia from a relatively early age. He accepts with fortitude his vocation basking in the knowledge that he has the love of his young nephews Janus (now a successful author) and young Aidan. He has always been close with this childhood friend Tom Cardie but has pondered and wondered why it is that he is constantly on the move from parish to parish.

I was aware that A History of Loneliness concerned the sexual abuse of young boys when under the guardianship of those they always felt they could trust, the priests and elders of the church. John Boyne does a wonderful job of telling a difficult story and gradually introducing doubt into the mind of the reader. This must be akin to the reality of what actually occurred, the refusal to confront those in power and the inability to accept what the eyes saw but the mind did not question. In this respect and indeed in this story no one is blameless for that moment of hesitation, that moment of questioning what you refused to believe resulted in the destroyed and decimated lives of many young people. Father Yates was to make one such mistake that had devastating and far reaching consequences.

This is a wonderful story, told with such depth of feeling and a true understanding of the subject matter being explored. I cannot say how glad I was that I read, even though at times the outcome was heart breaking. Boyne successfully portrays the catholic church as an institution more concerned with its own reputation and place in the community rather than protecting the vulnerable and young, the very people who looked to God as love and his workers the priests his guardians. Highly Recommended. ( )
  runner56 | Jan 28, 2017 |
A powerful book. It made me think about how I would have handled what happened. Would I have looked away or would I have spoken up? I liked how the story was woven between years. I figured out what happened early on to Ordan as well as Aidan. I was surprised that Ordan did not make the connection. Ordan has much that he had to live with as he aged. I wonder what happened to him. Well done. ( )
  Sheila1957 | May 29, 2016 |
This story of two priests has excellent depth without losing pace. The style is easy although the subject is not easy, making this a non-stop good read. ( )
  BridgitDavis | Feb 26, 2016 |
Father Odran Yates narrates John Boynes’ scathing condemnation of the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse of children by its Irish priests. As the novel progresses, Yates’ reliability as a narrator becomes increasingly suspect. The reader comes to realize that he is unsuited for the priesthood long before he does. His flaws emanate from a passive and self-centered nature combined with unwillingness to see the crimes being committed by his peers.

Odran is uncomfortable with the messiness of human emotions and thus embraces the church as a way to escape engaging with the world. He elects to spend his career sequestered in a school where his first love is to organize its library rather than to council his students. He eschews assignment in the community as a parish priest but ultimately succumbs to the Bishop’s authority. Boyne develops Odran’s deeply passive nature by showing him readily accepting his mother’s belief that he has a calling to the priesthood; by his easy acceptance of church authority; and by the strangely passive way he deals with his own sexuality while a young seminarian in Rome. It is interesting to note that the new Pope’s way of dealing with that issue foreshadows how the hierarchy will contend with its abuse problem—Odran is moved from his esteemed position but not really punished.

His passive nature combines with an inability to see events in their larger context, but instead only by how they affect him. The narrative builds on this by showing how the Irish people perceive the priesthood. This evolves from one of reverence to one of fear and loathing. Today they assume that all priests are pedophiles or sexual deviants. Odran goes from being a Father who must insist on not being fed by strangers on a train, to being arrested for attempting to help a young boy find his mother in a store. Also, he must wait for a parent to chaperone before he can meet with his altar boys. Through all of this, Odran shows little compassion for the victims even when it hits close to him. Instead he sees these changes in his priestly esteem as an insult to him personally and sub-consciously copes by turning a blind eye to the crimes.

Boyne’s use of the word “loneliness” in his title seems not to reflect Odran’s willful blindness—“aloneness” may be a less elegant but more accurate term. In the end, Odran comes to realize that refusing to look does not equate with innocence. Boyne uses Father Tom Cardle to represent the abusive priest. Like Odran, his friend Cardle was ill suited for the priesthood, but unlike him, he knows it. Cardle’s openness about his sexuality presents severe problems for himself and the Church hierarchy. Despite this, Odran willfully refuses to see Tom’s behavior, a decision that has some severe consequences for him personally.

Unfortunately, this is not an unbiased portrayal of the Catholic Church, but instead focuses on its flaws. Young boys are recruited to the Irish priesthood often against their will; the requirement for celibacy denies priests their human sexuality; the hierarchy adopts tactics of denial and cover-up while holding the people accountable with outdated rules against things like divorce and women’s freedom of choice. This remarkable novel is often frustrating to read because of Odran’s lack of self-awareness. If Father Yates doesn’t see abuse, then he will remain innocent and can go on with his comfortable cloistered lifestyle.

Boyne elects to tell the story with frequent shifts in timeframe, but he executes these seamlessly and the story moves along briskly. ( )
1 vote ozzer | Aug 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
St Thomas Aquinas considered "wilful ignorance" a grave sin against faith, and this is the indictment that Boyne builds against Odran, and against the priests who knew, might have known, must have known the reasons for some of their number being moved by the hierarchy "from Billy to Jack". Odran is named after a saint, the charioteer of St Patrick and first martyr of Ireland. This is surely ironic, for his namesake avoids confrontation wherever he can. The paedophiles are on trial at last, but the silent enablers of crime are also indicted. This scorching novel takes the reader to a wasteland, "a country of drug addicts, losers, criminals, paedophiles and incompetents", as Odran finally admits that he has not been telling us the whole story, and that the confiding tone of his voice is not to be trusted. John Boyne writes with compelling anger about the abuses of power and the dangers of submission.
added by ozzer | editThe Guardian, Helen Dunmore (Oct 3, 2014)
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Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.

E. M. Forster
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I did not become ashamed of being Irish until I was well into the middle years of my life.
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Father Odran Yates is a good man. Dedicated to his vocation since entering Cloncliffe 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 in his belief.

But something plagues his mind as the years pass. A feeling that there were things he didn't see, chances he missed. People he has let down. Is Father Yates as blameless as he 's always thought himself to be? And what of the Church he has given his life to?

It has taken John Boyne fifteen years and twelve novels to write  about his home country of Ireland, but he has done so now in his most powerful book yet. A History of Loneliness is a courageous, deeply moving account of a nation and a man living through a period of cataclysmic, irreversible change.
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