Caledonian Road by Andrew O’Hagan - review by Róisín Lanigan

Róisín Lanigan

Stranger in a Strange Town

Caledonian Road

By

Faber & Faber 656pp £20
 

For Andrew O’Hagan, King’s Cross is more than just a place. In 1997, he reported on the area for The Guardian and evoked a site of contrasts: new sleek glass buildings, vulnerable people buying drugs outside the station, Tony Blair’s children on their way to school, homeless boys in sleeping bags being moved on by the police. London teaches you to look at all these things, to accept the subterranean as well as the public. ‘Living in a big city’, he wrote, ‘is about opening your life up to change, not reducing it.’ In this and O’Hagan’s other writings, London emerges as a place of opportunity, hypocrisy and widening inequality, a stock market of reputation with an insatiable hunger for novelty.

O’Hagan moved from Ayrshire to ‘the world’s lovely centre’ over thirty years ago and has seen dramatic transformations in that time. ‘King’s Cross [was] changing overnight’, he writes in Caledonian Road, ‘becoming metal and glass like the streets you saw in advertisements, and the old sense of security gone.’ What hasn’t vanished is the ‘deep and magical allure’ of the area for people like him. And for people like Campbell Flynn, the character around whom O’Hagan’s new novel revolves

Described in the opening sentence as a man who believes his childhood in a Glasgow tenement is so far behind him that ‘all its threats’ have vanished, Flynn emerges as a paragon of guilt. An arts writer and UCL lecturer with aristocratic in-laws, he has made his home in Thornhill

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