25 June 2022
  • 25 June 2022

Book Review: Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

on 13 January 2021 0

Reviewed by Keira Brown, co-producer of the Paisley Book Festival

Andrew O’Hagan has done it again. Ever since reading The Illuminations, I have noted this author’s ability to revolve novels around sensitive subjects. Anchored by a succinct voice and wonderful characterisation, he does so marvellously in Mayflies. It’s Summer 1986 in the west coast of Scotland and a close group of music loving friends have finished school and are gearing up for an unforgettable weekend in Manchester with hopes of a night in the fabled Hacienda.

Their leader is the great Tully Dawson. He certainly seems the most enthused, but it soon becomes clear that this trip serves as a distraction from more pressing matters.

2017 hits. James, a quieter, more bookish group member is living in London but receives a startling message from Tully. Surprisingly, he looks to him for guidance, advice and to accompany him through his final months. But above all, grant Tully his final wish. The exploration of friendship and relationships is such a key part of this stunning novel, carrying nostalgia and bands such as New Order and The Smiths along the way. The characters are firm. O’Hagan’s prose is vivid, evocative and we can all feel the euphoria, the tragedy and the soundtrack to commit a life to. Mayflies is initially a joyride of a novel, but moves into something more reflective as they discover the significance of love and friendship.


The Paisley Book Festival is a partnership between Renfrewshire Leisure and Renfrewshire Council as part of Future Paisley. Future Paisley is an ambitious approach to cultural regeneration that harnesses the power of culture to support positive social change.
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