Author: Siobhan Dowd
Release date: 5th February 2009 / This edition paperback 4th March 2010 UK
Genre: Contemporary Teen Life / Issues
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: David Flickling Books
Summary from Amazon:
Memories of Mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blonde locks she feels transformed. She's not Holly any more, she's Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the super-sharp talk. She's older, more confident - the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head on. So begins a bittersweet, and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self, and unlocking the secrets of her past. Holly's story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.
Solace of the Road is a bitter-sweet story about Holly Hogan, a fourteen year old girl who has been living in a residential care home. She has locked away much of her past in her mind and has a very childlike fantastist way of interpreting the world. Many of the things that Holly thinks she wants are false and an illusion. It is her dream of finding her mother and returning to Ireland that spurs her to adopt the role of Solace. Whereas Holly is a girl who is restrained by her life as a care-babe, Solace is a woman who has the world at her feet and is able to make a life of her own choosing. I found this novel to be such a sad and honest story about those children in our society who are looked after by the state. It wasn't always an easy story to read but it was an emotive tale which was beautifully crafted.
The novel opens with Holly nearing the end of her journey to Ireland. We glimspe her enclosed by her memories and by the choices she has made as Solace. Then we travel back to the relative beginning of Holly's tale in the residential care home where she has bonded over the four years she is there with two other wards Trim and Grace but most importantly her keyworker Miko. She certainly has a deep connection to Miko and views him as an intrepid explorer, a free man and in a way her protector. Most often it seemed Miko protected Holly from herself and taught her ways to manage her rage and painful emotions. It is understandable that she feels a strong connection with him and that her world will seem unmanagable when he decides to leave the job to work with young offenders. He tells Holly she is on a downward spiral and needs a foster placement. Trusting in Miko, Holly meets a couple who want to foster her. On the surface she seems to be indifferent towards them and almost holds them in contempt, but it stems from her belief that sooner or later they will realise that she isn't worth the effort. It couldn't be any more heartbreaking.
I don't want to give anymore of the plot away but needless to say Holly soon dreams up the persona of Solace and takes the steps out the front door as this woman who is to be admired. As the narrative follows her journey towards Ireland, the voice alternates between the truly frightened and cynical Holly and the determined Solace. This character division is what drives the plot forward. The people she meets along the way move her forward by either giving her hope or by causing the doors to open in her mind to the memories she has shut away.
Solace of the Road left me with a lump in my throat. It was a paradox of childhood idealism and adult cyncism. There were so many emotions running through this book and that is what gives Holly her depth as character. Many of the things that she says are illusionary and make believe but in the centre of it all is a girl who has survived against all the odds and still has the power to dream. An amazingly poignant, truthful and emotive book.
Thank you to David Flickling Books for sending me the book to review.