A History of Loneliness – by John Boyne – book review

John Boyne, one of my favorite authors, imaginatively explores how one Catholic priest comes to terms with the church’s sex scandals and his own career — in a very believable way. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Odran Yates first learns of his “calling” to the priesthood when, after a family tragedy, his newly-devout mother tells him he is destined to be a priest. A dutiful, faithful, and patient Dublin boy – Odran heads off to seminary in the 1970s, a time when priests were universally respected in Ireland. There, he meets his roommate Tom, and begins a friendship that will last for 40 years.

During his years of religious service, Odran works briefly at the Vatican before spending decades happily serving at a Catholic boys school. That is until the Catholic Church assigns him to work as a parish priest, serving a church formerly served by his friend, Tom.

As stories of sexual abuse begin to surface, Boyne looks at how these stories were handled by within the church and how it was that priests managed to continue this criminal behavior, with the overt knowledge and support of the church hierarchy. And Odran witnesses first hand the seismic shift that happens in Ireland — where priests once considered trustworthy role models are suddenly demonized.

John Boyne

Like all Boyne’s books, this one is beautifully-written, full of multi-dimensional characters, and looks at an important universal theme –the impact of how we all sometimes tell ourselves stories that make us feel better, but may not necessarily be true.

More about the author, John Boyne.

You may be interested in my reviews of other novels by John Boyne:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom

A Ladder to the Sky

Next of Kin

The Absolutist

The House of Special Purpose