‘Solar Bones’ by Mike McCormack – One Long, Fascinating Sentence


‘Solar Bones’ by Mike McCormack   (2017)   – 217 pages

There are no periods, no stopping points, in ‘Solar Bones’, not even at the very end of the novel. (I looked.)   It is one long stream of conscious thoughts, and what a stream it is!  You could say that what James Joyce started, Mike McCormack has finished by writing his entire novel as one long stream of consciousness.

This one is not a gimmick; this one is for real.  The absence of a period and the presence of a conjunction propel the reader forward on to the next paragraph and the next paragraph and the next and…  Just as our minds go from one thought directly to another that may only be peripherally related to the first, so goes ‘Solar Bones’.  I generally don’t like to take my breaks from reading in the middle of a sentence on an ‘and’, but with this novel I had no choice.

Often ‘Solar Bones’ reads like poetry, poetry written by an Irish engineering supervisor which is who our narrator Marcus Conway is.

“yes you’re an engineer, math and physics and suchlike, but it was always a bit of a mystery where all your references came from, all the poetry and philosophy that overtakes you from time to time, but now I know, it was all part of the old ecclesial schooling am I right” 

Yes, a time spent in religious training as a young man has made the difference for Marcus Conway.  He combines the rigorous calculation of the engineer with the more expansive view of the world that poetry and philosophy provide.

Don’t be put off by this talk of stream of consciousness and poetry; ‘Solar Bones’ is compulsively readable.  I sailed through this novel smiling at this guy’s vivid frequently humorous portrayal of his family and of his engineering fights.  His loving concern shines through for his wife Mairead, his daughter Agnes, and his son Darragh who’s in Australia but sometimes calls home via Skype  It is all overlaid with that old Irish charm which I try hard to resist but somehow fall for anyway.  If I have any complaint at all, it is that McCormick lays that Irish schtick on a little too thickly.

‘Solar Bones’ was the 2016 winner of the Goldsmiths Prize.  It definitely fulfills the Goldsmiths slogan “Fiction at its most novel”.


Grade :     A+   


7 responses to this post.

  1. Yes, I thought it was A+ too, And those Booker judges left it off the shortlist!
    Thank goodness for the Goldsmiths Prize, eh?



    • Hi Lisa,
      I see ‘Solar Bones’ made the Booker longlist this year but not the shortlist. What were they thinking? 🙂
      A step up for Goldsmiths, a step down for Booker?



  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I loved it.



  3. I have this and am very much looking forward to it. Interesting your and Kimbofo’s disagreement on charm though – I wonder how I’ll find it.



    • Hi Max,
      It is not really an argument I have with Kim. It is only that I don’t give writers extra points just for being Irish. She probably doesn’t either, but I couldn’t resist teasing her about it.



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