A History of Loneliness

  • by John Boyne
  • Narrated by Gerard Doyle
  • 12 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The riveting narrative of an honorable Irish priest who finds the church collapsing around him at a pivotal moment in its history.
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 he grows wary 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 while 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 recognize 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 John Boyne as one of the most searching storytellers of his generation.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Emotional and Powerful

Wow, what a compelling book ! I was completely pulled into the story, empathizing with the characters, especially Odran, the first person narrator. This is a tough topic to write about. John Boyne is a fabulous writer, and listening to this book was a very emotional experience. Excellent narration by Gerard Doyle. He really personified the character of Odran.
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- Ruth Bain

Thoughtful Piece with Little Plot

My current fascination with the narrator Gerard Doyle is sending me off in some unexpected directions. I doubt if I would ever have noticed this book if it were not for the narrator.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Because in spite of the fact that this book, has no discernable plot, I found the author's style and prose very appealing. I will likely read other books by Boyne. So for that reason alone, reading this was worth it.

This tells the story of a Catholic priest in Ireland who entered the priesthood in the 1970s, a couple of decades before all hell broke loose within the Catholic church due to the sexual abuse and pedophile scandal that shook the church in Ireland even more than it did in the US. The narrator was not a pedophile and did not participate in any illegal or immoral activity. But he implicitly endorsed the behavior by choosing to ignore it and by failing to recognize the obvious activity going on right before his eyes, even when it involves a member of his own family.

Father Yates, the narrator is essentially a "good" man at least as respects his personal behavior. He is also genuinely likeable but not a sympathetic man, because no one as gullible and intentionally ignorant as he is can be sympathetic. He had a difficult childhood, a family full of mental illness and an overbearing mother who pushed him into the priesthood, although he seemed well suited for it. But none of this excuses his behavior.

And it was not just the sexual abuse of children he turned a blind eye to. He realized that the Church leadership suffered from extreme misogyny all the way to the top, that they had been able to bully their way out of any scandal for so long, that they had become inured to the suffering of others and were acting like immature children, once they were called to task for their excesses. He knew all this, complained to himself about it, but made no effort to call attention to the problems or attempt to solve them.

The book paints a very unflattering picture of the Catholic Church. But no more unflattering than the picture the real news has portrayed in the last two decades. I don't know how accurate the impressions about the last few Popes are, but it was interesting to read about them.

I did like the ending. It was rather abrupt but Yates was finally slapped with the hard truth of his quiet compliance in the scandal and the cover up and you sensed that what happened next was he spent the rest of his life grappling with his own cowardice.

Doyle toned his narration way back for this book. He matched the tone and the subject matter.
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- Lulu

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-03-2015
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio