Monday, April 09, 2007

Be Near Me-Andrew O Hagan

In the midst of a bunch of high culture this weekend, I also devoured a book I'm just stunned about.

Be Near Me is a heart breaker of a novel that concerns an English priest who takes a position at a small Scottish parish. David Anderton is a man informed by his heady education at Oxford in the late 60s, and quite at odds with the postindustrial landscape of Ayrshire, where "people define themselves as best they can, and when occupation is taken away, what's left is a snarling clannishness, picking at old wounds and spreading the poison down the generations."

In this environment, a gentle, somewhat socialistic priest struggling with his Faith and longing for a lost love at Oxford years ago who turns his attentions to a young boy... well it ends badly.

Some reviews have noted with disappointment the well worn theme of wayward faith and homosexuality etc., but that misses the point.
Be Near Me is about universal themes of how to live with holes in ones heart and how insular societies become such. Large and small concerns, detailed characters large and small, and oh my this guy can write!

"At the centre of himself, a man cannot choose whom to love. He can choose how to live and can honour the truth of himself where he may. But he cannot choose whom to love, anymore than he can choose how tall he is or how good. One can take up platform shoes or fine deeds, but the heart will always have the last word and when the word is love we can recognise, we can respond, we can submit and we can try to ignore, but we can never choose. Love is not a matter of choice, but an obdurate fact of surrender."

Lesser writers would have overwritten Be Near Me into submission, but in less than 280 pages, Andrew O'Hagan has contained a multitude.
Posted by Dave

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