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Andrew O'Hagan - Be Near Me

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 01 May 2011

Andrew O'Hagan is a rising star in the literary world. He joins James Naughtie and readers to discuss his novel Be Near Me, the story of Father David, an aesthetic English Catholic priest working in a working class community in Ayrshire.

This is a poignant story of a man who doesn't fit in. Father David is trapped by class hatreds, and troubled by sexual feelings which he struggles to keep submerged. He's a character who's almost intent on self destruction, and as the reader follows his story, we can't help but think it's going to end in tragedy.

Andrew O'Hagan talks about the challenges of writing such a story in the first person, how inevitably people think it's about himself - and how by creating a protagonist whose side of the story is not quite reliable leads to intrigue in the mind of the reader.

Andrew has drawn on the community where he himself grew up - a community ridden by class and religious divide. One of the novel's strongest characters is Father David's housekeeper Mrs Poole who was based on Andrew's mother and colleagues. His mother was a school cleaner and as a child Andrew spent some of his school holidays watching and listening to their conversations as they went about the 'big clean' - preparing the school for the new academic year.

The starting point for the book was when Andrew happened to be in a café in Paris and noticed a Catholic priest drinking coffee alone in the corner. Andrew watched as a tear fell down the priest's cheek, and immediately began to wonder what his story was and went home to write it.

As always on Bookclub, a group of readers join the author in the discussion and James Naughtie chairs the programme.

June's Bookclub choice : 'The History of Love' by Nicole Krauss.

Producer : Dymphna Flynn.


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