The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber)

Illuminations“Snow was falling past the window and in her sleep she pictured a small girl and her father in a railway carriage”.

We have two modern themes here,  dimentia and computer war games in Afghanistan. They are wrapped around a little family history, inter generational, the one gentle and determined, the other teenage Tommy.

Some of the Alzheimer’s is told in a touching way. Annie needs a tin opener to feed her ceramic rabbit a bowl of tomato soup.

With her pal Maureen, they form an amiable Raymond Briggs sort of duo in sheltered housing.

“Annie’s flat was like a palace. Maureen loved the story it told, not that she knew it, but a person with taste always has a story.”

Annie cannot remember. Nor can anyone else. Remember what? There are clues, though.

Grandson Luke’s tale is more abrasive, war picture library, predictable, Lee Child, depressing in another way. That they communicate through Maureen’s letters is a safety zone. The contrast is stark and distracting, realistic enough perhaps.

This might be the English entrant for the Man Booker prize 2015. It competes in an ideological beauty pageant.

Hello, My came is Andrew. I am 293 pages long in hardback. My hobbies are charming old ladies in northern Britain. I have a sub theme about photography.


Hello, I am Marlon. I am 688 pages long in paperback. I do very sharp Caribbean ghetto.  My hobby is violence.


Hello, I am Chicoze. I am 301 pages long in hardback. I do the Nigerian story of my brothers growing up. Lake Woebegone meets Omi-Ala, a dreadful river.

All the above are a form of  literary tourism, guide books to places nice book reading middle class people don’t and wouldn’t want to go but might want to be informed, at a distance, under the duvet. The same might be said of Satin Island, a tome for the universe of the technocrat.

Of course, laudably even, the Booker list may desire to encouragez les autres but Tolstoy wrote about Anna Karenina to depict a Russia of his time, so too Checkhov or Irene Nemirovsky for between the wars France. They create the prism, not the person, through which we glimpse myriad different perspectives of the world around us, then and now.

The above are all accomplished writing exercises, but not for me in the same orbit as this, which is not listed. I read on, Macduff.





About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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