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Be Near Me Hardcover – June 4, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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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From The New Yorker

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 he’s drawn to them like a moth to fire. O’Hagan tackles a highly charged subject with exceptional intelligence and subtlety. Father Anderton’s voice can be arresting even when he’s 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 O’Hagan reminds us, the variety of deceptions we practice on ourselves and others is almost infinite.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (June 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013036
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,093,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am taking my time only because the other reviewer (there is only one so far), was so far off the mark, in giving
the book only three (or 3.5, as she claims in her review), that I want to remedy her review. This is a terrific
book. The writing is beautiful--not lah-dee-dah beautiful, but strong and thoughtful--and the characterizations
are splendid. I believed utterly in the conflicted priest, in his dying, snobbish, decent housekeeper, and most
of all I believed in the ghastly beast that the Scottish town became.

If you are a reader of highly literate material, I recommend this. If you like your novels more obvious,
skip it. (But you will be missing a fine book).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me" is a work of indescribable beauty. From the opening dialogue that David Anderton (Father David) has with his mother to the final pages, a wistful thirty years later, O'Hagan elicits some of the finest characterizations and dialogue I have read.

This is a story about distance and loss. David, an Oxford student, falls in love with Conor, a young man from another college. After a certain kiss with Conor, David knows where he his headed...the priesthood. As it turns out, that's one of the few pieces of knowledge David will carry with him.

Much of the book centers around Father David's time in the Scottish town of Dalgarnock many years later, where he is not exactly welcomed by all. He meets an adolescent couple, younger than their years, befriends them, takes them on trips and becomes their confidante. After falling for Mark, the male of this duo, David is drawn into him one night and an indiscretion occurs. A trial follows and the rest is left for the reader to witness.

"Be Near Me", like the fine wine David drinks, simply gets better with each passing chapter. O'Hagan's narrative is so good that I found it hard to leave his book for even a minute. Each character evokes a certain empathy...not an easy task with multiple principals. By telling a Catholic priest's story from within, O'Hagan captures the "other side" of what we so often miss in the headlines of abuse. It is the choice of not facing one's sexuality that often draws men into the priesthood coupled with the ensuing loneliness that tortures its victims. The author presents this side with pathos and tenderness.

I highly recommend "Be Near Me" as it is a compelling work and one of the best books of the year. O'Hagan has created a masterpiece and the reader will understand the joys and sorrows of each of the individuals portrayed. It is a tour de force, full of emotion, depth and care.
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Format: Hardcover
What a beautifully written book. When Catholic priest David Anderton is posted to a small, clannish village in Scotland, his erudition and cultured ways are off-putting to most of the adults, with the notable exception of his cleaning woman and verbal sparring partner, Mrs. Poole. When he is drawn into the orbit of a couple of misfit teenagers, it is she who warns him that no good will come of it. David's past spills into most chapters seamlessly and we get a picture of his youth, his seminary experience and his Oxford days even as the present events unfold into personal disaster and the worst accusation a priest can face. What could have been a cliché, however, is not. When David realizes that his choices in life have left him totally alone and that the past and its grief cannot be forgotten, he accepts responsibility for his actions with total honesty and morality. The grief from which he can never heal is the great love he shared at Oxford with a fellow student - and his ruminations on love are particularly luminous (in O'Hagan's hands):
"...the heart will always have the last word, and when the word is love we can recognize, we can respond, we can submit and we can try to ignore, but we can never choose. Love is not a matter of choice but an obdurate fact of surrender."

Father David's mother is also a wonderfully drawn character - full of a steadfast and undemonstrative mother's love and good advice. The author's gift in leading the reader past distaste and condemnation of the protagonist's actions through the character's own search for self-understanding is quite an accomplishment, but it seems almost effortless.
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Format: Hardcover
Be Near Me is a searing read and paints a vivid portrait of an idealistic priest battling his inner demons. The Catholic priest in question, Oxford-educated David Anderton, finds himself heading the parish of a small town, Dalgarnock, and is met with suspicion by the townspeople. He befriends two troubled teens, Mark & Lisa & this friendship leads Anderton on a dangerous path that causes him to confront his past demons whilst struggling to deal with the consequences of his present actions.

Though the stories of sexual misdeeds in the church is not uncommon in these present times, the author succeeds in making other themes in the novel strike a more resonant chord within readers. Themes such as devotion, friendship, love, even ethics are given due consideration and the character of the priest arouses one's sympathy, despite his failings. A well-written novel that enables us to gain an insightful perspective of the central characters' lives.
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Format: Hardcover
Generally speaking, I mostly read mystery novels. Literary mystery novels to be sure, but mystery novels nonetheless.
While this book is certainly no whodunit, in a sense, this novel deals with a greater mystery: How shall a middle aged Catholic priest deal with the perils of doubting his long held faith, and how does he cope with his long surpressed temporal desires.
In a lesser hand, this book would have been pedestrian effort. In this author's hands, this ouvre is a small treasure.
Grab it, read it, savor it, and then wait for Andrew O'Hagan's next book!
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