January Book of the Month: The Illuminations by Andrew O'Hagan

Veritas vos liberabit — the truth will set you free.

The acclaimed novelist, journalist and critic Andrew O'Hagan uses this army motto as a touchstone in his multilayered story of family, memory, secrecy and forgiveness.

The Illuminations centres on two main characters: Anne, a former photographer who is now slipping into dementia in a sheltered housing complex (rule one: any resident incapable of using the kettle gets moved to a nursing home) and her grandson Luke Campbell, an army captain on a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan. When Luke returns, almost destroyed by his experience in a misguided and futile war, he takes his grandma to Blackpool, where fragments of her memories appear and disappear like the famous lights. Reading her old letters and looking at photos, Luke 'witnessed her spirit survive a series of trials he had never known about, and it made him love her more, while doubting the strength and consistency of men, including himself'. Longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, this is a beautifully constructed novel from a wise and gifted writer, whose first-hand experience and talent for dialogue bring his subject alive.

Read about Andrew's experiences in Afghanistan and the background to his novel in this excellent Telegraph interview

What the critics said:

'Moves with bold, imaginative daring and a troubled intensity between men at war and women with their children, between Scotland and Afghanistan, between photography and fiction, and between memory and secrets ... it is using the real world to ask real, difficult and important questions: about how the truth gets reshaped and rearranged, and about whether, under every kind of circumstance, it is possible to be true to yourself.' - Guardian


'Only in fiction as good as this will you find war, sex, nationalism and the care of the elderly, truthfully handled. The Illuminations is a novel which validates the greatness of fiction in hands as masterly as Andrew O'Hagan' - The Times


'I was reminded of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections because O'Hagan dramatises the ways lives twist and turn in concert with history, locating the precious and profound in the everyday.' - Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Andrew O'Hagan has written five novels and seven books, was the Telegraph's film critic and writes regularly for The London Review of Books. He has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times and was voted one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. He has won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He lives in London. 

Webchat with Andrew O'Hagan

We are delighted that Andrew will be joining us on Wednesday 27 January between 9 and 10pm to discuss The Illuminations, his previous award-winning novels and his writing career. Please feel free to discuss the book throughout the month and then come and meet Andrew on the night, ask him a question or simply tell him what you thought of the book. Look forward to seeing you there!

The book giveaway is now closed. If you were not lucky enough to bag a free copy, buy a Kindle edition or paperback and read ahead of the webchat.

Alternatively you could download the audiobook and listen to it on the go. Audible are offering Mumsnet users two free audiobooks when they sign up for a free trial. For details see their partner offer page

This giveaway is sponsored by Faber


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Last updated: over 2 years ago