From Publishers Weekly
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)
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*Starred Review* When David Anderton, a Catholic priest, requests an assignment close to his aging mother in Glasgow, he lands in tiny Dalgarnock, Ayrshire. Despite his own Scottish roots, his time in England means that, to the locals, he can be only English. Catholics are also a minority in Dalgarnock, but perhaps Anderton's greatest sin is another kind of otherness: his cultured tastes and his rich aesthetic sensibility. (He's "posh," as his parishoners might put it.) The story centers around Anderton's questionable relationship with a local boy--a midlife crisis leads the priest in a disastrous direction--but this is not, exactly, a tale about a pedophile priest. 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. The juxtaposition of Anderton's memories of privileged life at Oxford with the cheerful ignorance of the Dalgarnock youth provides an open-eyed elegy--that is to say, cognizant of the contradictions of nostalgia--for a more beautiful way of life. A rich and fascinating novel that promises rewards with rereading. Keir GraffCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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