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Book of the month

January 2016 book of the month: THE ILLUMINATIONS by Andrew O'Hagan.

88 replies

TillyMumsnetBookClub · 04/12/2015 14:26

The acclaimed novelist, journalist and critic Andrew O’Hagan has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times and was voted one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His latest book The Illuminations is a multilayered story that centres on two main characters: Anne, a former photographer who is now slipping into dementia in a sheltered housing complex 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 her love her more, while doubting the strength and consistency of men, including himself’. Full of secrecy, memory and loss, this is a beautifully constructed novel from a wise and gifted writer, whose first-hand experience and talent for dialogue bring his subject alive.

You can 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.’ 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

Book giveaway:

Faber have 50 copies of The Illuminations to give to Mumsnetters: to claim your copy, please fill in your details on the book of the month page. We’ll post here on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you’re not lucky enough to bag one of those, you can always get a Kindle edition or paperback here. 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.

We are delighted that Andrew will be joining us on Wednesday 27 January to discuss The Illuminations, his previous award-winning novels and his writing career. Please feel free to discuss the book here 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.

January 2016 book of the month: THE ILLUMINATIONS by Andrew O'Hagan.
January 2016 book of the month: THE ILLUMINATIONS by Andrew O'Hagan.
OP posts:
AndrewOHagan · 27/01/2016 21:57


Joyce's only play, Exiles, is the opposite of that - it's virtually all stage directions. He admitted it didn't work & got a mood on when anyone mentioned it. Mind you, no one in Joyce gets to talk except Joyce.

It's a whole different interesting strand, about novelists writing plays. You're point about Joyce is very funny. And I also feel for Henry James, who was a genius as a novelist, but he got booed when he went onstage to take a bow the opening night of his play Guy Domville.
AndrewOHagan · 27/01/2016 21:58


Yes, it's a Little Chef but I think they're only in England - lost in translation, sorry. Just go, you'll love it.

I'm on my way now, glow-sticks in hand.
AndrewOHagan · 27/01/2016 21:59

I want to thank you all for a really lovely hour of questions. Can we do this every night? Only kidding. Cheers. Andrew x

Corygal1 · 27/01/2016 22:00

When you win the Booker, go for the Mega Breakfast. Free coffee refills! All the fried bread you can eat!

Now that's proper worldly success - no one could say wealth and money don't make them happy after all that crispy bacon.

AndrewOHagan · 27/01/2016 22:00

Can I go to the pub now, Tilly?

FernieB · 27/01/2016 22:01

Thank you again for answering all my questions. Good luck with the films

TillyMumsnetBookClub · 27/01/2016 22:01

We're pretty much at the end of our hour, which has gone ridiculously fast...Thank you to everyone for such intelligent and thoughtful questions, you've made it a brilliant evening.

Most of all, thank you Andrew: you've been so generous and engaged with your replies, and we so appreciate your time and energy. Good luck with the MINovel, and the film projects - we can't wait to see what you do next.

Many many thanks and hope to have you here again one day...

OP posts:
AndrewOHagan · 27/01/2016 22:02

You're a star. Thank you. Over and out. A x

TillyMumsnetBookClub · 27/01/2016 22:04

And yes, get to that pub straight away, before last orders...I wish we could buy the round - we'll have to invent a long distance round buying app...

OP posts:
frogletsmum · 27/01/2016 22:05

What a fantastic webchat. Thanks for your answers, Andrew. Off to seek out your other books now...

gailforce1 · 27/01/2016 22:06

A brilliant book club chat, thanks Andrew and Tilly. Also thanks to Faber & Faber for my copy of The Illuminations.

angie95 · 27/01/2016 23:37

Hi Andrew,
thank you for writing an amazing book. Did you talk to soldiers who have been to Afghanistan? You wrote with such tenderness, it made me cry,,

RuthCart · 14/03/2016 19:52

I passed this one on to my mum and she really enjoyed it.

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