Be Near Me

This is a book I should not have liked. It’s a story of a lonely Catholic priest trapped in a bleak little parish in a nowhere Scottish town. Of course the priest is sexually repressed and socially inept, and of course his downfall is a chaste kiss plastered on a teenager under his care. It’s a hackneyed plot that’s no longer news. Yet to tell that story, and to tell it with lyrical persuasiveness, to actually make us feel more than pity for the priest, to show us the complexity of a life that we might dismiss as that of merely yet another priestly pedophile, is the wonder that beckons us into Andrew O’Hagan’s third novel.


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