Order for £13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Mr Lynch's Holiday, By Catherine O'Flynn. Viking, £14.99
Tuesday 17 September 2013
When a novelist's debut is a resounding success, it can create heavy pressures of expectation. Catherine O'Flynn's debut, What Was Lost, was long-listed for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes, and won the Costa First Novel award. Her follow-up, The News Where You Are, was less striking, perhaps because it lacked the child protagonist of the debut's first part, and the chill of a child's disappearance. Here is her third, a tale about a father and son getting to know each other better as adults.
Eamonn and Laura emigrate to Lomaverde in Spain. The property developer absconds, with debts; Eamonn's job folds, Laura leaves him, and Eamonn is plunged into apathy. Then his father, Dermot, arrives. Father and son learn to understand and accept each others' foibles. Eamonn is contemptuous of other expats, imagining dastardly motives and exaggerating flaws. As Dermot tries to cajole Eamonn into enjoying life, it becomes apparent that Eamonn's disdain for others stems from self-disgust, alienation and depression.
O'Flynn is good at mild comedy, humorously illustrating idiosyncrasies in her characters as Mark Haddon and Roddy Doyle do. But whereas Haddon moved on to explore more complex relationships and a less simple prose style in The Red House, Mr Lynch's Holiday can still feel so slight as to border on the insubstantial. O'Flynn is delightful when she is more outrageous: a phone tutorial given by a clearly libidinous Eamonn, or a description of features with "a kind of Le Bon-like swollen bully quality to them... fleshy in an affluent kind of way".
O'Flynn should allow herself to be indecorous more often. She is also insightful when she steps away from comedy, describing Eamonn's pain over his break-up, or Dermot's guilt at occasionally having felt irritated with his late wife when she was ill and his gradual acceptance that life couldn't be lived on eggshells because of impending death, but "had to be lived in denial of death, and with the right to be sometimes aggrieved, sometimes ill-tempered, sometimes disappointed". This is a good novel, but O'Flynn is capable of another great one.
Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boymusic
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
- 2 Trevor Noah: Jon Stewart's replacement faces online criticism over 'anti-Semitic' tweets
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
Top Gear live to go ahead: Jeremy Clarkson to join Richard Hammond and James May... just don't call it Top Gear
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Menstruation-themed photo series artist 'censored by Instagram' says images are to demystify taboos around periods
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans