Our Fathers Andrea-v O'Hagan (Faber £16.99)
You could be forgiven for thinking that Andrew O’Hagan, like the subjects of his first book, had departed from the face of the earth. The Missing (centring on individuals who disappear generally and the case of Bible John specifically) came out to universal acclaim in 1995. The Glasgow-born journalist and writer then started on the follow-up, rumoured to be a fictional work. And now it is here.
So, why the delay? ‘The nature of the old showbiz is that people want things now and the expectation of delivery is often fairly artificially enhanced,’ O’Hagan states. ’l'm in the position of wanting to get it right and make it exactly on the page as it is in my head and that takes a long, agonising time. There are one or two people, hateful people I must say, who find that easy. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.’
Our Fathers is a moving and eloquent description of a society in flux — the post-war period of Glasgow and the building programme which replaced the single end housing areas with tower blocks, many of which still
Andrew O'Hagan: art in heaven
loom over the city. This ushered in a new era of progress, which ultimately contributed to the fracturing of community, a process further oiled by the spiked wheels of Thatcherism. The story is told by Jamie, the grandson of one of the programme's pioneers Hugh Bawn, as he reflects on the past and how it affected his family, the decline of the Scottish Socialist utopia and the state of Catholicism.
It may sound grim, but O'Hagan’s writing is so measured and so evocative that the tale sweeps the reader along with mouth agape and eyes wide open. ’I knew early on that it was going to have a very different pace from The Missing,’ he insists. 'I knew it would share the same territory, especially geographical and, to some extent, emotional and I knew from the tone and the moral trajectory of the book that it could never be
encompassed in non-fiction.’
The success of his first book undoubtedly raised expectations and the fact that Our Fathers is being translated into ten languages has brought interest from far afield. Not all of it welcome. 'A bit of a dunce from America phoned up and said, "why write about something so unglamorous like public housing?" ' recalls O’Hagan. ’I thought that was to entirely miss the point — at the time there was nothing more glamorous than those blocks. People were writing to figures like Hugh Bawn wanting to get out of the slums and into these beautiful shining towers with inside bathrooms. Our sad experience shouldn't allow us to forget the hope expressed in them.‘
I Our Fathers is published on Mon 15 Mar. See next issue for Book events.
John Ie Carré: a singular talent
94 THE “ST 4~18 Mar 1999
Single & Single John le Carré (Hodder & Stoughton £16.99; audiobook £14.99) i it *
Once upon a time John Ie Carré invented the modern spy novel. In works such as The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, he detailed a murky world of cross and double cross where the 'goodies’ frequently behaved with more cruelty than the 'baddies’.
After a while, however, he decided he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. The books got longer, the reviews got better, and the sales went down. In retrospect, these ’mid-period’ works have worn less well than the earlier, shorter, less pretentious books.
Now in his third phase as a writer, le Carre’ has returned to shorter forms and, in his new novel, he attempts to
deal with the new Russian realities: exploring the consequences when the venture capital investment house Single & Single attempts to make a fast
Putting debut authors under the
Who she? Corene Lemaitre was born in 1967 and grew up in Wayne, Pennsylvania. She left high school at sixteen to attend New _York UniverSity
; on an arts scholarship, endowed by the
Fine Arts in drama with honours in
; late Paulette Goddard. Whilst there she 1 worked in the literary office of the ': Circule Repertory Theater Company
I I microscope. This issue: Corene I
and contributed to her campus mag. In her spare time she co-founded a writers’ workshop and performance group and was awarded a Bachelor of
1988. A very busy and very clever girl, !
really. After graduation, she moved to 1
Edinburgh, edited the literah/ magazine, The Source which gave a I forum to new writers. It was in this
; period that she completed her
L Her debut It’s called April Rising and is I ‘ set in suburban Philmont as Ellen ' I returns home after a two-year jaunt 2 across Europe. She finds that things ; have changed somewhat with her
brother’s new girlfriend April taking her ;
. place in the family structure. April’s
downfall is plotted . . . i
I First line test 'It doesn’t take me long ' to figure out that something is wrong.
To begin with, my key doesn’t turn in g
the lock. I try all the old tricks — rattling
the doorknob, lifting the door half an inch off the ground — but same verdict. No entry. Access denied.’
To whom is it credited? ’To Andrew Kelly; Tree Riesener; Guy Lemaitre; Todd Lemaitre; with love, And to the
memory of Bibi Jentoft-Nilsen.’
What is she up to now? She divrdes her time between London and Wayne, presenting a public access TV talk show, Authors Etc. . . and offers a seminar entitled How To Write And Sell A Novel. A second novel is being toiled away on five days a week.
I April Rising is published by
' HarperCo/lins at E 16.99.
buck in the wild west of the former e Soviet Union. Of course, it all goes ?
horribly wrong, with Tiger and Oliver (the father and son who run the company) eventually pitted against each other as their activities attract the attention of the forces of law and order.
It’s not a bad effort, but le Carre had a firmer grasp of the intricacies of Communism versus Capitalism than today’s post-Cold War chaos. However, the plot is satisfyingly complex, and as light entertainment you could do a lot worse. Just don’t expect to learn too much about life in contemporary Russia while you’re at it.