Wednesday, 2 January 2008
TITLE: BE NEAR ME
AUTHOR: Andrew O’Hagan
DATE PUBLISHED: 2006
DATE READ: Jan 2008
NOTES: David Anderson, an English priest, is sent to take over a small parish on the west coast of Scotland. But it is a very uncomfortable and uneasy setting for him and he finds his own culture and education (and pretensions) at odds with the society to which he is supposed to be ministering. He befriends a pair of teenagers from the local Catholic School and is sucked into their world, in turn fascinated and repelled by their behaviour and attitude. You soon realise that it will all end badly…….
David narrates the story but we are unsure whether he is naïve, flawed, arrogant or just plain stupid. The writing is beautiful and the author evokes strong images of both the idyllic past of David’s education at Oxford and the hellishness of the small town he now finds himself in. There are some brilliant “set pieces” – such as the meal of fish and wine he prepares, his conversations with Mrs Poole and the scene in court. Towards the end it was a bit like watching a train crash – you know something awful was going to happen but you can’t look away! Be Near Me is about loneliness, love, morality, faith and despair and deserved its place on the prize lists.
My one problem with the book is the difference in ages between David and the teenagers – would a man in his sixth decade really hang out with two fifteen year olds? Perhaps a smaller age gap would have been better.
I’m not sure that I’ve done justice to this very fine book – which certainly deserves a second reading.