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

 

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.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before