Caledonian Road

Andrew O'Hagan

Caledonian Road
Faber & Faber
United Kingdom
9 April 2024

Caledonian Road

Andrew O'Hagan

May 2021. London.

Campbell Flynn - art historian and celebrity intellectual - is entering the empire of middle age. Fuelled by an appetite for admiration and the finer things, controversy and novelty, he doesn't take people half as seriously as they take themselves. Which will prove the first of his huge mistakes. The second? Milo Manghasa, his beguiling and provocative student. Milo inhabits a more precarious world, has experiences and ideas which excite his teacher. He also has a plan.

Over the course of an incendiary year, a web of crimes and secrets and scandals will be revealed, and Campbell Flynn may not be able to protect himself from the shattering exposure of all his privilege really involves. But then, he always knew: when his life came tumbling down, it would occur in public


I found Mayflies, Andrew O’Hagan’s last novel, such a cosy read about youth, music, and everlasting friendships. Here, in Caledonian Road, he tackles similar themes, but ‘cosiness’ is not an adjective to use for this story. Instead, I would consider ‘provocative’. Through many different characters, O’Hagan gives you a straight appraisal of the mess we are all in by centring the story around one middle-aged white man: Campbell Flynn, an English author, art historian, and commentator. Over the course of a year, family man Flynn finds new connections amid his work and friends, and insights into the means by which power and freedom are sourced.

This is such a complex novel, with an array of so many characters that there is a detailed cast appendix included. The novel is divided into five sections, and each section, much like the excellent television show The Wire or even Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, illustrates how seemingly innocuous acts or friendships have an impact on everyone else. Each decision noted has a sizeable consequence and as Flynn begins to connect the dots, his world starts to epically fall apart.

This grand novel has been written to ask you what privilege means, why policy decisions are so often based in racism, how poverty disrupts, where possessing art is ego, and how money is hidden. And when your number is up …

Andrew O’Hagan is one of the world’s most accomplished and beautiful writers. This remarkable novel runs for over 600 pages and takes a kaleidoscope view of the global situation we are all experiencing. This novel is why we read: to examine how we live, and why. It asks us to be better, and yet also shows us that intention is not enough.

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