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Be Near Me (2006)

af Andrew O'Hagan

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
4892137,450 (3.47)35
In a small Scottish parish, an English priest is stalked by the fear of scandal, class hatred and lost ideals. Over the Spring and Summer of 2003, Father David becomes friends with two young people, Mark and Lisa: by the year's end his life is the focus of public hysteria. As he looks back to his childhood, and to Oxford in the fever of student revolt, Father David begins to reconsider the central events of his life, and to see what may have happened to the political hopes of his generation. Meanwhile, religious warfare breaks out on his doorstep.… (mere)

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» Se også 35 omtaler

Engelsk (20)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (21)
Viser 1-5 af 21 (næste | vis alle)
I'll start with a positive - this book is incredibly well written. It flows, the prose is beautiful, the story is well-layered and develops at a steady pace. It is insightful, clever and deals with the subject matter in a non-sensationalist and balanced way.

Which is why it pained me to give it such a low rating...but I just can't see past the glaring flaw in this book. And that flaw is that it just wouldn't happen. Teenagers like Mark and Lisa wouldn't hang about with David in the way portrayed (use and take advantage of, yes, but not socialise), and someone like David (no matter how lonely he was or how deep his mid life crisis went) wouldn't have allowed himself to be in such a position with them. Their worlds were just too far apart, their ages too far apart...I just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to engage with the story. That stopped this being a great read, in my opinion.

And don't even get me (native Scot) started on the anti-English stuff. Again, the author made it too extreme and trashed the believability. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
This was a bit of a long slo-mo train wreck. Middle-aged Oxford educated Catholic priest moves to a depressed Scottish parish and becomes drawn by a crowd of teenage toughs, one youth in particular. Predictable events ensue. What stands out however, is the writing - certain passages just beg to be copied down in my journal - and the priest's relationship with his housekeeper - proof that O'Hagen can create a really interesting female character. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
I haven't yet finished this book but it's impossible for me to believe that it could end in any other way than one that would warrant 5 stars. I am completely convinced that any 'deficiencies' in the book are in my reading and understanding, rather than O'Hagan's writing. This is a deceptive book, in that you can read it superficially and think it's only so-so, and largely a discussion of working class poverty in Scotland, but the reality is, I believe, far from that. The very few occasions I looked a little further into the text revealed to me a much more subtle and deep meaning than I had gained from my initial reading. I suspect if I was a better read and better educated person, I would have appreciated the work even more than the 5-stars-worth that it has already been given. Even in my ignorance, I found it deeply moving and powerful, with direct relevance to my own life and people I know in a corner of the world very distant from that Scottish town. ( )
  oldblack | Mar 10, 2016 |
Be near me will probably remain of of Andrew O'Hagan's best books. It is a book of tremendous depth, and not at all as obvious as it seems. In fact, the obscurity of what "it" is all about, is one of its main themes.

The novel is difficult, and difficult to get into. The final chapters are much better and much more engaging that the first part of the book. The difficulty of the book lies in the fact that the main theme of failing sympathy and understanding is worked out in various dimensions and relations in the book, in age, class, material and spiritual wealth. The enormous differences lead to and produce an enormous clash, a collision of two spheres, two worlds colliding at full speed.

In Be near me, religion is but a membrane that separate these two orbs. Even to the main character, David Anderton, a Roman Catholic priest, religion is but a thin veneer, a skin adopted or worn for fail of another, better choice. Anderton, as his name suggests, so different from others ('Ander' taken to mean different, in German), fails to adapt of be flexible, while others, in their later years at university shake off religion. Uncertainty, and hesitation to change, instead rather hold on to what is familiar characterized Anderton. In more than one sense, Anderton has not really outgrown his students days, or his ideals and past are hidden under a thin film.

Assigned to a Parish in rural Scotland, an impoverished town, Anderton's "otherness" is heightened by the sharp contrast between his almost aristocratic background, his tastes and his intellectualism, which is all but barely accepted as he enjoys the protection of his status as a priest. He enjoys most understanding from his housekeeper, Mrs Poole, who sees his refinement close up. Until one day, she sees too much.

Anderton's demise comes through the unlikely friendship he makes with two teenagers; they symbolize his inability to see the world as it is, as he tries to understand them, and be close to them. As he smokes pott with young Mark, his judgement is blurred and he gives himself over to feeling which were buried for decades.

Nothing much happened, but it looks very wrong, and is not understood. The hatred of the local population comes full down on Anderton, and everything he ever loved is smashed.

The anger of the parishioners in the novel is echoed by the anger of some readers. Particularly since 2006, when Be near me, the number of news stories about abuse in the church has increased. The novel is no apology, but an intellectual interpretation, an exploration of different, possible perspectives.

Very impressive. ( )
  edwinbcn | Nov 12, 2014 |
I thought this book was incredible. From the very start, the prose pulled me into the main character's world. It struck me as being a meditation on what it actually involves to be human, to live a life that is frustrating, to try to find hope and a reason for your existence. It was interesting in its portrayal of a man using faith as a hiding place, and the crisis this brought about in his life because of the lack of honesty in his decision. The relationship between the main character and the teenagers who befriend him was well observed, the outcome unavoidable. And through it all O'Hagan's steady prose made the story believable. ( )
  missizicks | Aug 22, 2014 |
Viser 1-5 af 21 (næste | vis alle)
Is it possible to review a book without regard to its content? To treat only of its literary merits - the prose, the characterisation, the plot - and not their ramifications? If so, then Be Near Me is a fine novel, well written. The prose is fluid and consciously literary, if a little over florid in a few places, and the characters are well enough observed.

A more or less English Catholic Priest, David Anderton, comes to a small Ayrshire parish where he is regarded with suspicion as an incomer. Only his part-time housekeeper, Mrs Poole, and two fifteen year old parishioners called Mark and Lisa make any effort to see him as an individual and not an interloper. The remainder of the book, interspersed with flashbacks of Anderton’s childhood and his life as a student, when he had a boyfriend who died in a car crash, an event which precipitated his retreat into the priesthood, deals with the unravelling of these latter relationships.

I may be wearing my teacher’s hat here but from its inception Anderton’s relationship with the teenagers was ill-advised and implied trouble. His response to the views they express - and the language they used - on their first meeting during a school lesson was inadequate at best, diffident and lacking in the moral guidance you might expect from an educator - or a cleric.

O’Hagan intends this of course. Anderton’s confused and ineffective response in this early encounter is emblematic of his attitude to his ministry and to the crisis that later engulfs him. He seems lost and insecure, but wilfully - and frustratingly - so. As a portrait of a man unable to prevent, indeed intent on, his own ignominy Be Near Me is exemplary.

This review could finish here were it not for the caveat expressed in its first sentence. Potential readers of the novel unwilling to have their reactions possibly prejudiced should also stop here.


As O’Hagan has reservations about the treatment of Roman Catholicism’s adherents in Scotland - which admittedly not all of his co-denominationalists necessarily share - I hesitate to write this; but I found his subject matter troubling. Or, rather, the way in which it was approached.

He has Anderton remember his school at Ampleforth and mention tales of abuse by the Brothers but say he neither witnessed nor suffered any himself. Is there a hint of disingenuousness here; is this too dismissive of the issue?

Later Anderton reveals himself as guilty of what is essentially a sexual assault (even if a minor one) on Mark. That his “victim” is nearly of the age of consent and that the act was not followed through neither excuses nor expiates it.

Yes, Be Near Me has things to say about jumping to conclusions, mob rule and vigilantism, the tabloid tendency to simplify complex matters and the failure of an adversarial justice system to penetrate to the truth of things.

But it comes close to implying that such abuse didn’t happen or, if it did, was relatively inconsequential; misunderstood even.

I am not saying that one ought not to write about paedophiles, nor that they may not be considered sympathetically in fiction, only that, if they are, it should be with due care and attention to their victims and to its seriousness; and in this I think O’Hagan fails, which is an extremely severe defect. In his choice of narrator and in the age of that character’s “victim” O’Hagan seems to be skating round the issue rather than confronting it. Minimising it, if you will. And is that not reprehensible?

Notwithstanding this objection, however, whatever else Be Near Me does as a novel, it made me reflect on these matters. And, in the end, to promote such reflections is one of serious fiction’s functions.
tilføjet af jackdeighton | RedigerA Son oF The Rock, Jack Deighton (Feb 18, 2010)
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In a small Scottish parish, an English priest is stalked by the fear of scandal, class hatred and lost ideals. Over the Spring and Summer of 2003, Father David becomes friends with two young people, Mark and Lisa: by the year's end his life is the focus of public hysteria. As he looks back to his childhood, and to Oxford in the fever of student revolt, Father David begins to reconsider the central events of his life, and to see what may have happened to the political hopes of his generation. Meanwhile, religious warfare breaks out on his doorstep.

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Gennemsnit: (3.47)
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