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Our Fathers
ANDREW O'HAGAN

Our Fathers by Andrew O'Hagan
8 reviews (1999) (0p)
Man Booker Prize Finalist

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Book Description
The theme of this Scottish Catholic novel is the collision of the old Scotland of municipal socialism and the new. That collision is dramatized in the story of the narrator's grandfather, an ambitious but misguided social improver.


Amazon.com Review
In literature, at least, most family sagas conform to a fairly simple pattern: rise and fall. Seldom, however, does this narrative arc take so concrete a shape as it does in Our Fathers. The hero of Andrew O'Hagan's first novel has spent the postwar era preaching the virtues of modern housing: "Most of the high-rises on the west coast of Scotland were made, or inspired, out of Hugh Bawn's zeal, and his tireless days as a housing boss. A priest of steel decking and concrete was Hugh." Yet the novel is narrated by this master builder's grandson, Jamie, who happens to make his living as an urban demolition expert. More than once he's helped to tear down the very edifices his grandfather erected--setting off both literal and Oedipal explosions in the process.

Now, however, Hugh is on his deathbed, and Jamie has returned to Ayrshire to make peace with the old man. Not surprisingly, he also finds himself reckoning with the shadow of his father--a brutal drunk who managed to alienate three generations of the family in one go. As its title suggests, O'Hagan's novel is primarily a meditation on paternity, which in Scotland, anyway, seems to amount to the kiss of death:

In my father's anger there was something of the nation. Everything torn from the ground; his mind like a rotten field.... Our fathers were made for grief. They were broken-backed. They were sick at heart, weak in the bones. All they wanted was the peace of defeat. They couldn't live in this world. They couldn't stand who they were.
To his credit, Jamie can hardly stand who he is, either: he senses that grief and weakness aren't merely national conditions but human ones. And as Andrew O'Hagan's mouthpiece, he attains some splendid rhetorical heights. Yet his voice gets muffled, and sometimes silenced entirely, by the author's multigenerational ambitions. There are too many Bawns in this novel, too many tales, and too many miserable transactions between father and son. O'Hagan's prose is perhaps worth the price of admission. Yet Our Fathers, like the Scots communities that Jamie so explosively reshapes, is itself a victim of excessive sprawl. --James Marcus


Other Award Winning Books by Andrew O'Hagan
Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan
22 reviews (2007) (320p) (LATimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Andrew O'Hagan Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 1 Our Fathers ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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