I would never willingly choose to read books about children in care and social workers. Especially not when I need cheering up. So in that respect I would have preferred it if this last novel by Siobhan Dowd had been about something else. But I trust Siobhan, and Solace of the Road is as wonderful as everything else she wrote. Naturally.
Solace is the new name Holly assumes when she runs away from her foster home. She leaves London and sets out for Ireland, where she hopes to be reunited with her real Mum. This is a journey book of the 21st century. It may only take the reader from London to the Irish Sea, but a lot happens. Oxford plays a big part in Solace’s escape, and so does the A40. I can remember Carmarthen from years ago, and it doesn’t seem to have improved.
While she runs, Solace/Holly starts remembering her past. Bit by bit things come back, and they aren’t quite what she had thought, and not quite what the reader may have imagined either. I could see a bad scenario in my mind, but it wasn’t the right bad scenario.
I raced through the story and cried at the end. Was very worried that it would have to end badly, and kept going over Siobhan’s other novels in my mind to see how she had dealt with seemingly hopeless plot turning into OK ending.
I really don’t know how Siobhan did it. Her writing looks so effortless you just can’t believe it. And so very, very good. Solace of the Road needs to win a few awards.