Review

Our Fathers

by Andrew O'Hagan



Dysfunctional families have existed as long as families have
existed --- period. It is no wonder that OUR FATHERS, the first
novel from Andrew O'Hagan, is the 2001 Booker Prize winner, the
highest order of literary prize bestowed on a writer from the
British Isles. A man named Jamie returns to Scotland from his home
in England because his grandfather, the man with whom he lived
throughout most of his adolescence, is lying on his death bed.
Jamie decides that, having once run out on the old man after he had
taken care of him for years, it is time to say good-bye gracefully
and maturely, and he attempts to do what he can to let the old man
know what he has meant to him. OUR FATHERS is a poetic and at times
majestic look at one man's life as well as the social and political
history of contemporary Scotland.

The episodic nature of the opening chapters, in which Jamie
recounts the difficulties and traumas of his young life with his
real parents, problems which include alcoholism and domestic
violence, could have been vaulted into EAST ENDERS territory, but
instead O'Hagan offers a consistent and purified voice that
explains all aspects of the story in a quiet and well-considered
manner. "I sat by myself on the train leaning Berwick; six years
old in long trousers. Jamie the boy with watery eyes. That was me."
Obviously, the boy has suffered, but he never takes it out on us
--- instead, he weaves his story with the weathered and mature
voice of a man who has moved past his past and realizes that there
is still more redeeming and learning to do as he continues to get
older.

Relationships are difficult, and O'Hagan doesn't pussyfoot around
the particulars of Jamie's attempts to latch on to love throughout
his life. Throughout the period of his visit to his grandparents,
as his grandfather falls farther and farther away from the
precipice of life, Jamie finds himself going over and over, in
confrontation and in consideration, the way he has learned to deal
with others and what he can do to better those learned
abilities.

OUR FATHERS is a moving but not tortured testament to the way in
which people can change with age, mellowing and accepting as
well as questioning even more than ever before. There is a dignity
in Jamie's search for the truth that will touch every reader's
heart.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 24, 2011

Our Fathers
by Andrew O'Hagan

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0156012022
  • ISBN-13: 9780156012027