Winner of the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize, Solar Bones is Mike McCormack’s third novel, which inspired by James Joyce, speaks of a time in Ireland, specifically County Mayo, that has a contemporary feel. Now that comes in the structure and style, as we are faced with what seems a Joycean stream of consciousness prose, corresponding to the last moments of thought, reflection, philosophical contemplation for Marcus Conway.
Marcus Conway has come a long way to stand in the kitchen of his home and recall the rhythms and routines of his life. Considering with his engineer’s mind how things are constructed – bridges, banking systems, marriages – and how they may come apart, and how they did perhaps come apart. He relates his experience of growing up in this part of Ireland, describing his life journey towards Mariead’s love alongside his career as an engineer. The engineering by Mike McCormack of this novel is also interesting as he attempts to capture with tenderness and feeling, in continuous, flowing prose, a whole life, suspended in a single hour.
Documenting the rise and fall and re emergence of Southern Ireland as a European nation his work can sit alongside the likes of Anne Enright and Kevin Barry, in that he sits within that notion of Irish writing. However, the one thing which struck, which probably saw him receive the Goldsmiths Prize, was this preamble, with no clear sentence structure, blatantly documenting thoughts as they occur, but with no new chapter, no capital letters, no punctuation. A rhythmic structure, which has been compared to a heartbeat, it’s perhaps best read in one sitting.
However there are moments within this novel that make it great reading, including the section on Agnes and her art, deemed contentious. The anecdotes about his father and mother as well as that of him being rejected by the bank manager also add life to this novel, capturing our attention, forcing the reader to keep going. Solar bones, are described as the minutes of the day holding it together, and from the title, it is vivid from the offset this is to be a reflective works.
Philosophical, abstract, but done by the likes of Joyce previous, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack is worth the read, albeit a novel difficult to love.
Solar Bones was published by Canongate Books on 4th May 2017.