There is little to be proud of in Britain’s record of post-war urban development, and out of all our blighted cities, Birmingham became a byword for the arrogant myopia of urban planners. Catherine O’Flynn’s second novel, The News Where You Are, looks beyond our second city’s impersonal infrastructure – where ‘the steady Euclidean geometry of the road network [descends] into a spaghetti of ellipses and oxbows’ and ‘crescents bloom from crescents in a tangled Mandelbrot soup’ – by placing at its heart the very thing those architects and planners seemed to have forgotten: people.
Frank Allcroft is besieged by an unaccountable sense of loss. His father had been one of these visionary post-war architects, and now his buildings are being unsentimentally bulldozed to make way for the twenty-first century version of the future. As a child, Frank was simultaneously overawed and deeply