Synopses & Reviews
The Canadian debut of the Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Our Fathers
In a small Scottish parish in a post-industrial town by the sea, an English priest with secrets in his own past becomes stalked by the fear of scandal, class hatred, and lost ideals.
When Father David Anderton takes over a Scottish parish, not everyone is ready to accept him. Over the spring and summer of 2003, Father David befriends two young, troubled students, Mark and Lisa. Their natural energy and response to the world bring out his own feelings of protectiveness, as well as longings for parts of himself -- and his past -- that he has come to lose. This relationship and the way it develops leads to the book's climax, as Father David finds himself facing accusations of abuse.
Told from the point of view of Father David, we feel, beneath his need for order and emotional distance, the passionate undercurrents that have brought him to where he is. In this riveting novel, where every word counts, Andrew O'Hagan's brilliant writing leads us into a story of art and politics, love and faith. Be Near Me possesses a depth of feeling and a literary artistry that render it O'Hagan's masterpiece.
"This burnished gem of a novel has drama, emotional resonance and intellectual power enough to recall one's favorite 19th century writers. At its center is David Anderton, a Scottish-born, Oxford-educated Catholic priest who, after years in England, assumes a parish in working-class Scotland to be closer to his mother, a writer and free spirit. Now in his 50s, David recalls his own passions vividly, but he has traded his 1960s university ideals to favor the Iraq war, and his realizations of romantic love for a life of the cloth. From early on, there's a glaring gap between David's first-person recollections and the elitist, alienating affectations he assumes with others. His Dalgarnock parishioners are suspicious of his education; his only companions are his sardonic but morally stringent housekeeper, Mrs. Poole, and a pair of thuggish teenagers, Mark and Lisa, who remind him of his own youthful rebellions. As Mark and Lisa draw David into their chaotic lives, the novel builds to an inevitable clash between the spiritual and the secular, the adult and adolescent, the utopian 1960s and the neoconservative 2000s. Throughout, O'Hagan (The Missing) enchants with his effortless prose, vivid characters and David's uncanny asides, making O'Hagan's fourth novel a heartrending tour de force. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"O'Hagan keeps both accused and accusers human and even noble. The most minor characters are drawn with truth and complexity, and O'Hagan's prose is stylistically dazzling, as crafted and lovely as the best poetry." Library Journal
"[A] beautiful, astute novel. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
"O'Hagan may have snatched the subject from today's headlines, but with remarkable skill he turns potential tabloid fare on its head....There is a graceful quality to [this novel's] circuitousness, which, despite the gravity of the subject, shows off O'Hagan's dark wit and deftness in characterization." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"For all the death and, mostly repressed, sex that loom over this novel, Be Near Me is generously strewn with gentle ironies and not without moments of outright comedy....O'Hagan is mostly concerned with human frailty, a problem at once moral, aesthetic, and metaphysical." New York Sun
"One of the remarkable things about Be Near Me...is the texture and even beauty is lends to Anderton's downfall. At a glance, the priest might seem repellent, but O'Hagan infuses him with so much complexity that his undoing...becomes undeniably tragic." Time Out New York
"An impeccably crafted, philosophically framed account of the decline and disgrace of an impressionable Catholic priest. UK author O'Hagan turns to questions of insight in a beautiful but ruined 21st-century landscape." Kirkus Reviews
"In gorgeous, melancholy prose, O'Hagan portrays a man who misapprehends both the community and himself, leading us on a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion's role in an increasingly un-Catholic world -- and, eventually, of the simple need to love and be loved....A rich and fascinating novel that promises rewards with rereading." Booklist
"[A] beautiful, astute novel. A-"
"This burnished gem of a novel has drama, emotional resonance and intellectual power enough to recall one's favorite 19th century writers...[A] heartrending tour de force." (Starred)
"Tragic, powerful, and moving, with insight into the world of English-Scottish politics, this is a book that is somewhat challenging to absorb because of its intensity, but that very factor makes it worthwhile."
"Be Near Me is about a man distanced from everyone, most especially himself...Andrew O'Hagan asks us implicitly to look at our own lives, ask ourselves how clueless we may be, as we try, with courage or cowardice or both, to get from this particular day on to the next."
PRAISE FOR BE NEAR ME"What a powerful writer Andrew OHagan has become . . . Be Near Me is an elegy, a love story, a document of an era, beautifully imagined and composed."JOYCE CAROL OATES"As if it is not enough that Andrew OHagan can write like an angel, one has to add that he does it in the rare style of an intelligent angel. What a fine novel is Be Near Me."NORMAN MAILER
"Beautifully written...[O'Hagan has] an ear for dialogue, and nuance in single sentences lit by unexpected insights."
"[A] beautiful, astute novel. A-"
PRAISE FOR BE NEAR ME "[A] beautiful, astute novel.
"Always trust a stranger," said Davids mother when he returned from Rome. "Its the people you know who let you down."Half a life later, David is Father Anderton, a Catholic priest with a small parish in Scotland. He befriends Mark and Lisa, rebellious local teenagers who live in a world he barely understands. Their company stirs memories of earlier happinesshis days at a Catholic school in Yorkshire, the student revolt in 1960s Oxford, and a choice he once made in the orange groves of Rome. But their friendship also ignites the suspicions and smoldering hatred of a town that resents strangers, and brings Father David to a reckoning with the gathered tensions of past and present.In this masterfully written novel, Andrew OHagan explores the emotional and moral contradictions of religious life in a faithless age.
Father Davids presence ignites the suspicions and smoldering hatred of a town that resents strangers, which brings him to a reckoning with the tensions of his past. In this masterfully written novel, O'Hagan explores the emotional and moral contradictions of religious life in a faithless age.
About the Author
Andrew O'Hagan is widely recognized as one of the most talented young writers in the United Kingdom today. His second novel, Personality, received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
prologue January 1976 1
one Sundial 4
two The Mouth of the River 26
three Mr Perhaps 53
four Ailsa Craig 78
five Schoolboy on an Elephant 102six The Nights 122
seven The Economy of Grace 146
eight Balliol 175
nine The People 212
ten The Echo of Something Real 235
eleven Kilmarnock 258
twelve The Single Life 285