Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

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Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Heartbreaking road trip novel with an unforgettable central character. Moments of intense pathos combine with humour to create a book of tremendous quality. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2009
Publisher: David Fickling
ISBN: 038560971X

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Thinking about her missing mum is the only thing that keeps Holly Hogan going. A care-babe since her mother disappeared, Holly is angry and depressed by turns. She needs some stability. But when her key worker Miko moves on and she's finally fostered, Holly still can't settle. She doesn't want a new, too-nice, too-perfect family; she wants her old one back. Her mum, with her pink slip and clinking glass, that's who Holly wants. But her mum's somewhere in Ireland, no-one knows where, and Holly's stuck in London with Fiona and Ray, and a school she hates.

And then, Holly finds the wig.

Wearing the long, blonde, flowing locks transforms Holly into Solace. Solace isn't afraid. She doesn't lack confidence. Solace has slim-slam hips, a slinkster walk and super-sharp talk. And Solace is going to Ireland, to find Holly's missing mother, and then everything will be alright.

Read Solace of the Road and weep. Read it and laugh, too. It's a first person road trip narrative with great energy. Dowd gives Holly a distinct voice with the unmistakeable blend of brittle self confidence and vulnerability that is peculiar to adolescents. But of course, with Holly, everything is amplified - her chaotic background and emotional baggage is always to the fore.

Sometimes you laugh with Solace who is so vital, so intense, so self-confident. And sometimes you smile for Holly, especially when she encounters one or other of the many guardian angels who appear in the course of this road trip. And too often you cry for the damaged child that she is, and you realise that if you cried a million tears, it still wouldn't be enough - for Holly, or for any one of the broken children in our society. Solace of the Road has it all really: grit, pathos, humour, sharp observation, and a central character who catches your heart and doesn't let it go.

Siobhan Dowd, who sadly died of breast cancer in 2007, was a writer of absolutely stunning versatility. She gave us a quirky mystery story about a boy on the autistic spectrum in The London Eye Mystery and a tale blending politics and magic realism in Bog Child. Here, and with ease, she turns her hand to a coming-of-age road trip. The world of books is inestimably diminished without her.

My thanks to the good people at David Fickling for sending the book. We also have a review of The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd.

They might also enjoy Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, another road trip novel, this time featuring a group of boys who need to face up to the truth about a friend, not a parent.

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Buy Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd at

Booklists.jpg Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2009.


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