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Hugh Bawn was a modern hero, a dreamer, a Socialist, a man of the people who revolutionized Scotland's residential development after World War II. Now he lies dying on the eighteenth floor of one of the flats he built, flats that are being demolished along with the idealism he inherited from his mother. Hugh's final months are plagued by memory and loss, by bitter feelings about his family and the country that could not live up to the housing constructed for it. His grandson, Jamie, comes home to watch over his dying mentor and sees in the man and in the land that bred him his own fears. He tells the story of his family-a tale of pride and delusion, of nationality and strong drink, of Catholic faith and the end of the old Left. It is a tale of dark hearts and modern houses, of three men in search of Utopia. Andrew O'Hagan's story is a poignant and powerful reclamation of the past and a clear-sighted look at our relationship with personal and public history. Our Fathers announces the arrival of a major writer.

Author Notes

Andrew O'Hagan was born in 1968 in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at the University of Strathclyde. He is an Editor at Large for Esquire, London Review of Books and Critic at Large for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. He is a creative writing fellow at King's College London. He has worked as an editor and ghostwriter.

He has twice been nominated for the Man Booker Prize. He was voted one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. He has won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, made Honorary Doctor of Letters by University of Strathclyde in 2008, and was made Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010. His book awards include the 2000 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for Our Fathers, the 2003 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (fiction), for Personality, and the 2010 Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award for Writing.

His fiction includes Our Fathers, Personality, Be Near Me, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, The Illuminations. His non-fiction includes The Missing and The Atlantic Ocean. He also has written short stories and book reviews.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

O'Hagan's first novel is a generational story that argues for the idealism of progress while simultaneously acknowledging the inherited faults of such an idealism and the faults of the dreamers themselves. It's a beautiful elegy for Scotland's postwar Labourites, men and women who felt ready and able to refashion their world along the socialist model. It is also a fine condemnation of the drunken, self-pitying Scottish sentiment that seems in vogue these days. The story covers three generations of the Bawn family: Jamie, the narrator and youngest, personifies the blend of New Labour and the deep ideals behind the Scottish renaissance. His father, Robert, is a ne'er-do-well alcoholic whose self-hatred nearly destroys the family. His grandfather Hugh, a heroic Labourite to the end, achieved the remarkable feat of building public housing in and around Glasgow back in the 1960s and '70s. Now, however, old Hugh is dying, and his cheaply made apartment towers, decrepit and on the brink of destruction, are the center of a scandal that threatens the old man's reputation. It is Jamie, the urban demolition expert, who must rescue the old man's reputation even as he sorts out his feelings regarding the family and the dream of progress. --Frank Caso

Publisher's Weekly Review

Scottish writer O'Hagan's first book, The Missing, was a well-received nonfictional compound of memoir and journalism on the subject of missing persons. Now, switching competently to fiction, he has produced a family melodrama and novel of social consciousness spanning four generations. Jamie Bawn's grandfather, Hugh, better known as "Mr. Housing" from his days as Labour's Public Works mastermind, is dying in a grim flat in one of the many Glasgow high-rises he erected in the name of progress. To Hugh's pride and dismay, Jamie has followed in his footsteps and, after briefly deserting Glasgow for Liverpool, is now assisting with the demolition of his grandfather's buildings, for the good of a new generation. As he nears death, Hugh is under investigation for cutting corners in the construction of his utopian towers, but Jamie knows that though the allegations are true, Hugh intended to pass his savings on to needy tenants. In a bedside vigil lasting many weeks, Jamie devotes himself to his grandfather, their sparring underlaid with prickly affection. Jamie also reminisces about his father, Robert, a crude and abusive drunkard who hated his son, and Hugh's mother, Effie, the family's first idealist, who led rent strikes in Glasgow's tenements during WWI. If Jamie and Hugh are too strong as individuals (and political animals) to reconcile completely, Jamie's watch over Hugh's last days gives him enough perspective to allow him to reestablish contact with his estranged father. O'Hagan's control over the Glaswegian idiom never slips as his characters tentatively get in touch with their feelings in most un-Scottish fashion. Skirting sentimentality and never indulging in it, Our Fathers deftly balances generational conflict with political struggles in a hardnosed, reform-minded Scotland. Author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

On the heels of his successful first book, the acclaimed nonfiction title The Missing, journalist O'Hagan tries his hand at fiction. At the center of this book is Hugh Bawn, an ardent Socialist who planned and built high-rise flats in postwar Scotland. Years later, as he lies dying, his grandson Jamie returns home from England to reclaim the past he has tried unsuccessfully to leave behind. Spun by Jamie, this poignant tale reveals the lives of Hugh, Jamie, and Robert, Jamie's alcoholic father. Hugh's high-rises are destroyed one by one to make room for newer housing, much like the dreams of these three Scottish men. Eventually, Jamie realizes that the "child you have been will never desert you" and that memories may not always offer solace or solutions to present conflicts. A thoughtful book; recommended for large fiction collections.ÄFaye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.