Book review: Andrew O’Hagan – Mayflies

Andrew O’Hagan often weaves fact and fiction in his novels, using real lives and events as the starting point for the story he wants to tell. With his latest, Mayflies, the story is a particularly personal and powerful one, being an elegy for his childhood friend, Keith Martin, who passed away in 2018.

It’s split into two sections. Part One recounts a life-changing summer of love in 1986, where narrator James and his best friend and kindred spirit Tully Dawson are facing the end of their school days and the beginning of the next chapter in their lives. Future possibilities are tempered with the thought that things may never be the same again.

The novel then jumps to Autumn 2017, when James receives the news that Tully is sick and is reaching out to his old friend. The energy and excitement of the teenage reminiscences give way to the sobriety and seriousness of middle age, confronting the fears that come to us all. The universality of their relationship and the passing of time, and the honest and candid way that O’Hagan relays this, give Mayflies an emotional punch that stays with you long after the last page.

Mayflies is out now, published by Faber

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