Nominated by:

Cape Breton Regional Library, Sydney, Canada

Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek, Norway

San Diego Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Faber & Faber, UK

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA

Mc Clelland & Stewart, Canada

The Illuminations

Andrew O'Hagan    

2017 Longlist

How much do we keep from the people we love? Why is the truth so often buried in secrets? Can we learn from the past or must we forget it?

Standing one evening at the window of her house by the sea, Anne Quirk sees a rabbit disappearing in the snow. Nobody remembers her now, but this elderly woman was in her youth a pioneer of British documentary photography. Her beloved grandson, Luke, now a captain with the Royal Western Fusiliers, is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, part of a convoy taking equipment to the electricity plant at Kajaki. Only when Luke returns home to Scotland does Anne’s secret story begin to emerge, along with his, and they set out for an old guest house in Blackpool where she once kept a room.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Andrew O’Hagan is one of his generation’s most exciting and most serious chroniclers of contemporary Britain. Following two previous nominations, his latest novel, The Illuminations, has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2003 he was voted one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. He won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He lives in London.

Librarians’ Comments

Luke Campbell, serving on a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, is a long way from his home in Glasgow. His grandmother, Anne Quirk, who eagerly receives his letters, is rapidly declining into dementia. The novel alternates between Luke’s experiences in Afghanistan and his grandmother’s memories of her one grand passion for a fellow photographer. Things culminate when they travel to Blackpool, the scene of the yearly “illuminations”.

A gracefully written novel exploring the present and past of two characters, an elderly woman in decline and her soldier grandson, who is wrestling with the issue of moral responsibility in war.

Centres on two protagonists, an elderly woman photographer, her memory fading, and her beloved soldier grandson, a damaged veteran of the Afghan war, one trying to remember, the other to forget. They travel to Blackpool together, where she hopes her past will be illuminated. Realistically written, but with warmth, feeling and humour.

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