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 recognise 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.
A History of Loneliness explores the journey of Father Odran Yates in becoming the priest he is today. The book examines his life and what he went through when his mother had a calling for him to be a servant of god. While he never thought that the job was not for him, he never spoke up to his mother and just went along with it. The book also dwells on the church sexual harassment situation in Ireland and it had a major affect to the child that it happened to. Odran nephew was also a victim as he was sexually assaulted by one of Odran’s closest friends. That had caused their relationship to strain and Odran only found out towards the end of the book when his friend was arrested and charged for doing it to other boys.
However, I found it Father Odran Yates characteristics to be annoying as he seemed to be whiny during the book. It is understandable to be frustrated that people now treat him badly due to the sexual assault were done by other priests. But to keep complaining it in every part of the book gets irritating. He is also judgemental of others as he thinks highly of himself due to his profession.
Overall, the flow of the book is not in sequence as there are many flashbacks to explain the current day situation. The book also explored the past of Odran Yates and how it led him to where he is today as it is a huge part of the story.