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Our Fathers

Ohagan, Andrew

243 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0571195024 / ISBN 13: 9780571195022
Published by Faber Faber Inc, 1999
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Browsers' Bookstore, CBA (Corvallis, OR, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Signed. First Edition. First edition. Signed by the author. Fine copy in fine dust jacket. Though not marked, from the collection of Mel Waggoner, host of the public radio program "Profiles" which interviewed authors. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000090882

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Our Fathers

Publisher: Faber Faber Inc

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

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.

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

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