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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 6 February 2020

"The Missing" by Andrew O'Hagan

I purchased this book from the fiction shelves of an Oxfam book store and persisted in believing it was fiction until I reached the first quarter point when, confused, I checked the back cover and discovered it is non-fiction. But even allowing for the fact that I misunderstood the nature of the beast, the book itself seems muddled about its purpose. It starts as a memoir of O'Hagan's ancestry, a section which culminates in the tale of a serial killer who hunted at a dancehall (Barrowland) where O'Hagan's mother danced. The second section tells us about O'Hagan's childhood in Glasgow and (mostly) nearby Irvine and a little boy who went missing from there. The third section is a journalistic inquiry into missing persons and the charities that try to care for runaway teenagers. The final section is about the victims of Fred and Rosemary West, the serial killers from Gloucester. So it appears as a very disjointed book.

But there are moments when O'Hagan waxes eloquent:

  • "Our worklessness can make all work look heaven-sent." (Clyde-Built)
  • "Old gangs never die - they just buy new suits, or pass on their old ones to younger gods with smarter troubles and haircuts."  (Clyde-Built)
  • "The wife's life - encumbered and enlightened by demanding kids who'd consume their mummy's prime then judge her ever after - was seldom charmed or light or funny."  (Clyde-Built)
  • "We started praying to [the Virgin] Mary at about the same time as we began to read. She wore a blue dress ... the sort of blue that stands for goodness and purity and not for Rangers." (Thin Ayrshire)
  • "At the head of his Salvationists in 1885, William Booth ...wanted to populate heaven from the accidental denizens of hell." (Mispers) Accidental denizens of hell is a brilliant description.
  • "Modern life is full of traumatized bystanders."  (Mispers)
  • "One of the things that you notice about the cornoner classes is how cheerful they are."  (Mispers)
  • "People may go missing within their own community, without ever leaving it. They may be lost, without going anywhere at all." (Mispers)
  • "Everyone was still preoccupied with the nature of the alleged killers; the nature of the killed was never of interest, it was never in much doubt. They were the victims." (Westworld)
  • "The clouds were black-bottomed as I walked up the High Street to meet Liz Brewer. It was a Saturday afternoon and it had that feeling - I could recall such days stuck in the house as a kid, away from the heathen weather, filling in picture books with scuzzy felt-tips. Our living-room, from the carpets up, would be a veritable colosseum of boredom. There'd be racing on Grandstand, or an old film on BBC2. It would always be Robin Hood or someone else filling the screen, looking much more colourful than it was right to be on a day like that."  (Westworld)
  • "As I stood there ... there was a flash of lightning outside, then a rumble. It's always a bit dramatic, that. The woman behind the counter was going on as if this, indeed, was the end of the end. Thunder and lightning often have that effect, making you feel as if you're being spoken to from somewhere above."  (Westworld)

February 2020; 241 pages

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