Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Life in a sentence: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack


Solar Bones is a distinctive novel that tells the highs and lows of a man’s life through his immediate thoughts and memories. Marcus Conway is an engineer with a wife and two grown up children, with his thoughts clouded with current work projects and interfering projects, his wife’s sudden illness from a tainted water supply, and the lives of his children, one a local artist trying out a new medium and the other across the globe in Australia. The novel follows him musing over all of these and more, considering the structures of civil features, marriage, and stable life in one single sentence.

McCormack’s stylistic touches—a single sentence novel, broken up by commas and line breaks—makes the book feel strangely natural, giving Marcus’ thoughts a flowing quality that might be expected from stream of consciousness writing, but also some of the feel of poetry. The detail, especially depictions of specific moments like when his wife is very ill, is vivid and real, with the ability to make the reader feel a little queasy, for example. The nature of the novel means it is focused upon the character, his thoughts, and his life rather than a particular main narrative, though the book does have a decisive ending.

Solar Bones is far more readable than the ‘single sentence novel’ selling point makes it sound, but also it is this selling point that gives it a distinctive style, a return to the modernist stream of consciousness and a way of making prose and poetry less separate. It makes for a tender look at a life, unmissable for literary fiction fans.