In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie

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In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A disparate tale that goes from funny to unslettling while being disrupted by prevocational philosophical questions. In fact I would suggest that this is more for the philosophiles than those who enjoy a good story to stand on its own.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Sceptre
ISBN: 978-0340992524

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Jacob Little is many things to many people as he goes through life, reinventing his personae and name. Who exactly is he? Perhaps he's unsure but the thing he's certain of is his love for a young woman he lived with for 2 years. It took her leaving and the next decade apart for him to realise he loves her but now he wants to make up for lost time. She said her name was Solace so now he's (all together now) in search of Solace.

English born, Scottish raised author Emily Mackie graduated from Bath Spa, that oasis of writing that has nurtured the likes of Lucy Cruickshanks and YA author Maudie Smith. On graduation Emily soon carved out a place for herself among Britain's young literatie. Her debut novel And This is True was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Does her second novel match the expectations initiated by this success? Well it all depends on what your expectations are. That may sound a mite philosophical, but you haven't heard anything yet.

In Search of Solace is awash with philosophy. There are questions of identity as Jacob changes profession, name and appearance while looking for who he really is. Is he the hippy, the academic or just the guy in the raincoat standing on the roof of a very tall building?

The Solace motif is also interesting: he didn't know what she/it was worth until she/it had gone and now he has to have her/it back in his life.

Although the connections aren't always subtle, they're clever as we view the episodic moments in the company of an all-seeing narrator guiding us back and forth to the important moments of Jacob's life. Unfortunately for me, therein lies a problem.

We meet the makings of some fascinating characters; people like pub landlady Big Sal hiding a spiteful secret, young Lucy the 16 year old whom takes a fancy to 33 year old Jacob and then there's the mysterious Solace herself. We meet her when she's older and thinking of him daily and yet… My problem (and I'm prepared to believe it was me) was that I became increasingly frustrated as we keep being tugged away to another time and another place. By the end of the novel I only felt I knew Lucy. Jacob is purposely elusive (fair enough) but the others just don't seem to be around in long enough bursts to get as acquainted with as I'd like.

The whole novel is undeniably astute but in a niche way. If you're one of those among us who enjoy plot and long to soak in characterisation you may feel (as I did) that we aren't left in one place long enough to absorb either. If, however, you enjoy philosophy and extracting allusions and theories from the works of others, this is something you'll love.

(Thank you Sceptre for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you enjoy philosophy and/or strong characters, try The Descent of the Lyre by Will Buckingham.

Buy In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie at

Buy In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie at


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