O'Hagan, Andrew 1968–
O'Hagan, Andrew 1968–
Born 1968, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Home—London, England. Agent—A.P. Watt Ltd, 20 John St., London WC1N 2DR, England.
Journalist and writer.
BAFTA award, 1996, for radio and television adaptation of part of The Missing titled Calling Bible John; shortlisted for Booker Prize for Fiction and Whitbread First Novel Award, both 1999, and shortlisted for Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, 2000, all for Our Fathers; Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, 2000, for Our Fathers; James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), 2003, for Personality; named one of the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, 2003.
The Missing, Picador (London, England), 1995, published with new introduction, New Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Our Fathers (novel), Harcourt (New York, NY), 1999.
The End of British Farming, Profile Books (London, England), 2001.
Personality (novel), Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.
(Editor and contributor) The Weekenders: Adventures in Calcutta, Ebury (London, England), 2004.
Be Near Me, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Contributor to newspapers, including Guardian and Daily Telegraph; contributing editor, Granta; board member and former editor, London Review of Books.
Andrew O'Hagan is a journalist and writer of Irish ancestry who was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His first book, The Missing, is part investiga- tive report, and part memoir of the history of reported missing persons in the recent past. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "remarkable" and an "insightful and personally affecting study," going on to note that The Missing "defies simple classification." A second nonfiction work, The End of British Farming, chronicles the agricultural crisis in Britain at the beginning of the 2000s. O'Hagan has also written novels, including Our Fathers.
Born in 1968, O'Hagan grew up in a housing development, one of the "New Towns" constructed during the rebuilding of Glasgow. His family hoped for a better life away from the inner city, but the new location was not a guarantee of safety or freedom from fear. A fellow student, Sandy Davidson, disappeared while O'Hagan was still a young boy, and the future journalist, with his child's view of evil, became fearful that he would also vanish; after all, his grandfather had been lost at sea during World War II. Disappearances during O'Hagan's childhood, as well as other memories, are contained in the first part of The Missing. New Statesman and Society reviewer Kim Campbell called this "the best part of the book. [O'Hagan] ruminates beautifully on the street as the social space of childhood."
Along with recollections of childhood, O'Hagan investigates the missing. Campbell wrote that here the author "becomes the subject of the story, surrounded by a medley of sounds—other people's stories—that no longer make sense. O'Hagan becomes both the star and the silence." O'Hagan cites statistics from the United States that show that in 1995 half a million children under sixteen were abandoned by their parents. Teens run away from families, as do adults. Some people are kidnapped, and others wander through life, many suffering from mental illness. Concentrating primarily on the United Kingdom, O'Hagan interviewed families and friends of the missing, as well as social workers and the runaways themselves. He discusses police procedures and case studies, including the investigation of Frederick West, whose backyard was the burial site of a number of young women killed by the Gloucester serial killer, who is suspected to have killed at least twenty-five female boarders.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the agony of the families "horribly vivid." The contributor went on to write in the same review: "O'Hagan presents solid insights." The reviewer noted that although O'Hagan talks about the sadism of children, he does not discuss its causes. Rosemary Mahoney noted in the New York Review of Books that O'Hagan concentrates on the kidnapped and the murdered, "as if by delving into the details of the victims' lives he might somehow undo their misfortune." Mahoney added in the same review that "The Missing is a surprising, thought-provoking discourse on the vulnerability of human life." Mahoney also wrote: "It offers stark and vital lessons about compassion and suffering, community and mistrust, and the nature of individual identity."
Our Fathers is O'Hagan's novel about three generations of men. Jamie Bawn, now in his thirties, grew up under the rule of his vicious alcoholic father, Robert, and his mother, Alice, with whom he was very close. Jamie left home to live with his paternal grandfather, Hugh, and his grandmother Margaret. Hugh had been an urban planner who constructed public housing in 1970s Glasgow, and his buildings are being torn down to make way for new construction. As a demolition expert, grandson Jamie is often involved in their destruction. When Jamie's father figure is near death, Jamie goes to Hugh's bedside to devote himself to his grandfather. Jamie reunites with his father, who has sobered up and is driving a taxi, and he finds that his mother has happily remarried.
A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "skirting sentimentality and never indulging in it, Our Fathers deftly balances generational conflict with political struggles in a hard-nosed, reform-minded Scotland." A Library Journal contributor reiterated general praise for O'Hagan's novel, calling Our Fathers "a thoughtful book." Though Times Literary Supplement writer Sean O'Brien identified some flaws in the book, especially regarding its political message, he admired its seriousness and concluded that the novel "deserves to be widely read." Angus Calder, in the Independent, wrote that "by any standards, Our Fathers is a powerful novel. As a first novel, it is very remarkable indeed." Praising O'Hagan's "rich prose" and ear for dialogue, Calder hailed Our Fathers as a "welcome corrective to all those fusty acres of print mourning the demise of the squalid tenements which men like Hugh Bawn swept away," and noted that the novel shows "how our own lives may stand in relation not only to our parents', but to all the lives lived here before us, and to here itself."
In March 2001, O'Hagan published a major report in the London Review of Books on the crisis in British farming. What began as an investigation of the devasta- tion wrought on British farms by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease ended as an analysis of the industry's deeper and more longstanding problems. As O'Hagan explained: "I came to feel that British farming was already dying, that the new epidemic was but an unexpected acceleration of a certain decline." O'Hagan's report, for which he traveled throughout England interviewing farmers of all sorts, was published later that year as a book, The End of British Farming.
O'Hagan's second novel, Personality, features a story based on Lena Avaroni, a 1970s Scottish singing star. In the novel, told from multiple points of view, Maria Tambini wins a singing contest at the age of thirteen and sets off on a meteoric singing career. As her career progresses, Maria leaves her eccentric Italian family behind but is battling anorexia and overzealous fans. Apparently headed for disaster, Maria meets Michael Aigas, a boy from her hometown and her only hope for salvation. Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "drives home the costs of celebrity even as it delineates people's unceasing fascination with … overwhelming talent." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Personality "haunting and rewarding as an intimate family chronicle and journalistic take on the entertainment industry."
According to Keir Graff, writing in Booklist, O'Hagan's next novel, Be Near Me, provides the reader with "a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion's role in an increasingly un-Catholic world." The novel is narrated by Father David Atherton as he tells his story of being an isolated head of a Dalgarnock, Scotland, Catholic parish, where the locals look askance at him because he is English. Atherton also recounts his growing relationship with a local boy, Lisa, and the boy's friend Alice, both juvenile delinquents. The fifty-six-year priest then reveals how he is ultimately seduced and then eventually betrayed. Several reviewers praised the novel and noted that the scenario is not the standard one of pedophile that readers might expect. Referring to the novel as "intriguing," California Literary Review Web site contributor Julie Ellam added: "At times, the concepts that are broached are unpalatable and the narrator is flawed and unappealing." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "This burnished gem of a novel has drama, emotional resonance and intellectual power enough to recall one's favorite 19th century writers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Personality, p. 1957; March 1, 2007, Kier Graff, review of Be Near Me, p. 63.
Bookseller, April 23, 2004, "James Tait Black Prize," p. 6.
Bulletin with Newsweek, September 16, 2003, Sally Blakeney, "Migrant Life," p. 77; November 14, 2006, James Bradley, review of Be Near Me, p. 77.
Business Week, November 4, 1996, Hardy Green, review of The Missing, p. 24.
Entertainment Weekly, June 8, 2007, Jennifer Reese, review of Be Near Me, p. 84.
Guardian (Manchester, England), July 14, 2007, Andrew O'Hagan, "In Truth: Andrew O'Hagan on the genesis of Be Near Me."
Independent, March 6, 1999, Angus Calder, review of Our Fathers.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1996, review of The Missing, p. 1218; July 1, 2003, review of Personality, p. 879.
Library Journal, October 15, 1996, Adam Mazmanian, review of The Missing, p. 76; August, 1999, review of Our Fathers; August, 2003, Josh Cohen, review of Personality, p. 134; December 1, 2006, Leora Bersohn, review of Be Near Me, p. 113.
London Review of Books, March 22, 2001, Andrew O'Hagan, "The End of British Farming."
M2 Best Books, April 22, 2004, "Winner of Scotland's Oldest Literary Award Announced"; October 19, 2006, "Andrew O'Hagan Short Story to Be Distributed by Unicef."
New Statesman, September 4, 2006, Peter Bradshaw, "Keeping the Faith," review of Be Near Me, p. 58.
New Statesman and Society, September 29, 1995, Kim Campbell, "Invisible Men," pp. 53-54.
New Yorker, August 20, 2007, review of Be Near Me, p. 83.
New York Review of Books, November 10, 1996, Rosemary Mahoney, review of The Missing, p. 58; January 15, 1998, Neal Ascherson, review of The Missing, p. 30; September 25, 2003, "Missing Person," p. 24; July 19, 2007, Claire Messud, "When Life Caught up with Him," review of Be Near Me, p. 10.
New York Times Book Review, August 10, 2003, Ruth Franklin, "A Star Is Born," review of Personality, p. 23; December 7, 2003, review of Personality, p. 69; July 15, 2007, Stephen Metcalf, review of Be Near Me, p. 11.
Observer (London, England), August 20, 1995, review of The Missing, p. 13; September 24, 1995, review of The Missing, p. 15; November 26, 1995, review of The Missing, p. 7; October 6, 1996, Fintan O'Toole, review of Personality, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, October 7, 1996, review of The Missing, p. 57; August 8, 1999, review of OurFathers; July 21, 2003, review of Personality, p. 174; March 12, 2007, review of Be Near Me, p. 33.
Spectator, November 11, 1995, Gavin Stamp, review of The Missing, p. 52; August 5, 2006, Sebastian Smee, "One Kiss Too Many," review of Be Near Me.
Times Literary Supplement, September 22, 1995, Ian Bell, review of The Missing, p. 36; December 1, 1995, review of The Missing, p. 12; December 3, 1999, Sean O'Brien, review of Our Fathers; April 11, 2003, Robert MacFarlane, "Celebrity Knocks" (profile of author), p. 5; October 15, 2004, Chitralekha Basu, review of The Weekenders: Adventures in Calcutta, p. 31; August 11, 2006, Jonathan Keates, "The Lost Shepherd: Andrew O'Hagan's Novel of Passion and Resurrection," review of Be Near Me, p. 21.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 17, 2003, review of Personality, p. 7.
Village Voice, November 5, 1996, review of The Missing, p. 51.
Voice Literary Supplement, winter, 1996, review of the The Missing, p. 10.
California Literary Review,http://calitreview.com/ (June 11, 2007), Julie Ellam, review of Be Near Me.
Contemporarywriters.com,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (November 17, 2007), Eve Patten, profile of author.