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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David Anderton, a fifty-six-year-old English priest in a gritty Scottish town, comes from a long line of Catholic martyrs, but he himself has settled for quieter satisfactions: good Alsatian wines, Chopin Nocturnes, banter with his housekeeper about the twelfth-century roses in the garden. Then, one Good Friday, he encounters Mark and Lisa, two charismatic juvenile delinquents at the local Catholic school, and hes drawn to them like a moth to fire. OHagan tackles a highly charged subject with exceptional intelligence and subtlety. Father Andertons voice can be arresting even when hes describing heartburn ("I felt an empty, dyspeptic scorch as I drove to the school, like a rising argument at the centre of my chest"), and our growing intimacy with his inner voice describes its own arc of seduction and betrayal. No one gets off easily here, and yet the corruptions revealed are not necessarily the expected ones: as OHagan reminds us, the variety of deceptions we practice on ourselves and others is almost infinite.
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