Cover Image: Caledonian Road

Caledonian Road

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Member Reviews

Caledonian Road is a witty, analytical exploration of numerous things at play in contemporary England: masculinity, politics, family and and identity, to name just some of them. As someone that loved 'Mayflies', I knew Andrew O'Hagen was gifted in his characterisation but I still found myself taken aback but how much I enjoyed this one. I found Campbell Flynn to be both unlikeable in quite an obvious, superficial way, but simultaneously endearing. I particularly savoured the moments that depict him interacting with his children and his friends. At its best, there is an almost Dickensian exploration of life in the city - full character assassinations (for there are plenty of odious members of this cast) and reflections on the world. There is plenty of humour and excellent wit amongst the portrait of corruption and class inequality; there is fine art and upper class socialites and drama, but there are also softer more poignant moments.

I didn't want my reading of this novel to end - I found myself sneaking a few pages in between the more mundane aspects of my life and had numerous close calls where I almost dropped my kindle (in bath, in train tracks, on to the hob, etc.) because I was so engrossed.

Loved it - will be buying my own physical copy to thrust into the hands of my unassuming friends, and wow what a treat they're in for.

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London is changing, the old guard of family wealth is being usurped by new foreign wealth. Traditional roles are being sidelined and art, fashion and crime is becoming the role of youth. Meanwhile exploitation is still happening and no-one is safe. Following a group of people centred around academic and art critic Campbell Flynn, Caledonian Road explores how London has changed.
I really like O'Hagan's writing and this book is superb. The length may seem daunting but the prose skips along and it doesn't feel excessive. It may be high praise but I feel this book is like and update to the classic 19th century novels of life by Thackeray. The details are fantastic and nuanced, there's a gentle push at the woke generation and a stronger push at corrupt businessmen, the downstairs tenant is a real Dickensian character and the whole is so enjoyable that, for me, it sits at the top of the books I've read this year!

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Aptly described by the publishers as " a state of the nation " novel , one of the most hotly anticipated releases of 2024 and already a bestseller, Caledonian Road is quite the epic. At over 650 pages this book covers a lot of ground from politics, class, luck, cryptocurrency, drugs, art, influence, migrants, fashion,corruption , the dark web, academia among other things, this is quite the tome.

The book opens in 2021 in post brexit London as pandemic measures begin to be wound down. There is a huge cast of characters ( a full list of characters is provided in the beginning of the book) within but our protagonist is Campbell Flynn, art historian, lecturer and writer. Over the next year his life will implode.

I am really conflicted on this one. I came close to giving up over the first 150 pages and then could not put this down for the last 200. For lovers of this author's last novel, Mayflies, this book could not be more different. Everything is exaggerated to the point of cliche. The characters felt like caricatures of certain types of people which while I am sure this was the author's intention for me as a reader it made me disinterested in pretty much every character yet I was invested, in time, in the overall concept of this book. It captures a point in time with harrowing clarity, I imagine this book will be useful to scholars of the future.

This book primarily focuses on men- their delusions, decisions, desires and deceit. The female characters are quite one dimensional which frustrated me, I think I would have enjoyed this more had several of them been more developed and played a more central role in the plot.

Saying that, the book really began to flow for me in the second half when I got used to the characters and cliches. There is some wonderful writing within and O'Hagan pulls off what I think he was trying to achieve with this novel. He shines a light on British Society and it is a dark, uncomfortable and rotten view.

I am unsure how to rate this one. Overall it was probably a 4 star read for me but I can't fully commit to that based on the first half of the book. 3.5 - 4 stars. So glad I didn't give up at the 150 page mark.

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This is certainly an ambitious book with an epic cast, spanning all levels of society within London .

It begins with the Campbell Flynn a privileged well known art critic who needs to make a fast buck due to dwindling finances and a reluctance to let "standards" slip. He is intrigued by a combative student called Milo, who exists on a totally different plane of society, but still within the geographical confines of the Caledonian Road area.

Like Dicken's "Our Mutual Friend", the shiny veneer, the muck and dirt of the underbelly London are all metaphorically exposed. Modern societal change due to Russian oligarchs and alternative lifestyles are also documented through the various characters.

I found the character of Campbell Flynn unsympathetic to begin with and couldn't invest enough in him as a character. Like Dickens , the novel became too picaresque despite its observant satire and I struggled to finish this ambitious book. I persevered and did enjoy it , but it wasn't a page turner for me. However I think it will take its place as an important novel of our times.

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I previously enjoyed reading Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan,and was very pleased to get the chance to see an early edition of his latest work ‘Caledonian Road’.
It might be described on first impressions as a rather daunting novel to get into ,due in part to its sheer volume.A list of the characters at the start might appear rather epic and off putting to some.However the book rewards the reader for carrying on,regardless of any initial reservations.
The central figure of art historian Campbell Flynn interacts with Milo,a student, as an attempt almost of self validation through allowing the young man to challenge his preconceptions of the world and those around him.
Topics woven into the narrative include class structure,toxic family relationships,lifelong friendships ,racism,elitism,activism,gang culture,exploitation, celebrity,hedonism and art criticism.
A rich and sometimes complex panoply of characters flit in and out sporadically at times,providing a colorful and chaotic sense of momentum through often messed up interconnected lives.
This complex yet ultimately involving storytelling is by turns, sharp, humorous,sad,witty,heartbreaking, and hopeful.
So, don’t start this if you’re looking for an easygoing light fast paced read.
Immersion in the intersecting storylines makes for a compelling portrait of recent Britain.Well worth making the journey in my opinion.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I can't quite describe how much I utterly adored this book and all of its quirky and vibrant characters.

This book is very character driven. When I saw the extensive list of characters at the beginning of the book, I had to admit I was a little apprehensive I might not be able to keep up. However, I did. The characters are all so intrinsically linked and so well developed that I very quickly felt like I knew them and their stories.

This book follows Campbell Flynn, an art historian, writer, and university lecturer who, I'd say, lives a very well off life style. He has a circle of friends and family who are all equally well off, money wise, but their life styles all differ quite a lot.

There was a lot to uncover with the plot of the story. I was originally a little daunted by the size of the book, but it covered so much that I got why the large page count was needed. I found myself deeply immersed in this story from the beginning and didn't want it to end. I became invested in so many of the characters, disgusted by many others, and overall blown away by how well all of their stories were pieced together.

It covered so many issues, such as gang crime, the pandemic, slavery, mental health issues, and so many more.

I am so glad I got to read this early, I have not been able to put this down for the last few days, and it is definitely my most anticipated release of the year! I suggest everyone picks this up!

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There’s a stubborn streak of Scotland that runs right through this book. From the title to its main protagonist, Campbell Flynn, a man who loves to take his pin and prick the pomposity of his counterparts, Flynn is a man who complicates this story with his Scottishness.

Campbell Flynn is celebrated for his intellectual bonhomie. A man from working class Glaswegian roots, he bettered himself by going to Cambridge, making a whole new set and class of friends and ultimately, marrying a Countess’s daughter.

An art historian, he made a name for himself writing a biography of Vermeer which was very well received, though not the money making exercise he might have preferred. Now he lectures at University College and pens articles for magazines, newspapers and even hosts a podcast. He is ‘the writer in vogue’. To make money he has written a truly terrible self- help book in which he has no belief at all. Why Men Weep in Cars has been written with pop psychology in mind to cater for all those men who believe sheds are the answer and self-help groups to talk about ‘men’s issues’ will recommend it as being in touch with the male zeitgeist.

Caledonian Road is that North London Road that spreads out over a mile and then some and which has a poor stretch and a rich stretch. Its diversity should be its strength as different purveyors of wealth, class and experience intermix along its path.

So you get the sense straight away that this large tome of a book is epic in scale and that’s certainly true. The cast of characters is large and many of them are especially unpleasant. It’s easy to see why some have compared this to a modern Dickensian London novel.

Andrew O’Hagan doesn’t hold back from dealing with contemporary issues. From money laundering to Russian influence; from sweatshops to slave labour, from corrupt police to corrupt politicians and from Brexit to the aristocracy, O’Hagan has something to say about them all with a hard hitting, scalpel wielding ferocity that leaves few standing unblemished.

Campbell Flynn’s bonhomie stems from the fact that he does not take himself seriously. He’s just had fun writing a piece for the Atlantic magazine on liberal guilt and why it is a conceit, which has stirred up controversy among the liberal elite.

Milo Manghasa is a former student of Flynn’s. He grew up on Caledonian Road. He had an Irish father and despite being from the poor side of the road, he has gained a Masters in Computer Science. Campbell grew up in a Glasgow council house, and Milo still lives with his father in council housing. His mother was an Ethiopian immigrant and a teacher and community activist in the area. Both men have childhood friends who are involved in ev il deeds. Both have connections to all sorts of people, nobility, human traffickers, mobsters, artists, and drug dealers. Despite the differences in their backgrounds now, Campbell Flynn sees something of himself in Milo and the pair has developed a good natured verbal sparring relationship.

Milo challenges Flynn and Flynn delights in those challenges, even when they lead to Milo diverting funds from Flynn’s account into various charitable projects.

Milo has a theory; ‘We are who we know’ and although that works both ways – Milo’s closest friends are a drug dealer who carries a weapon and his girlfriend, Gosia, who is the sister of a drug dealer and human trafficker. Campbell however, has friends who are significantly more criminal. William, his best friend, is being investigated for business-related crimes, including running sweatshops. His sister-in-law is married to a Duke whose offences could be even more loathsome.

O’Hagan makes the connections between rich and poor; between Russian oligarchs and Brexit; between police and political corruption.

O’Hagan takes massive swipes at everything that is our contemporary society. From the aforementioned corruption to the phenomenon that is algorithmically generated playlists. No target is too big or too small to come under his biting wit and sarcastic scrutiny.

On the whole, the women in this novel get off more lightly than the men. They appear more as cyphers; beautiful and clever or unpleasant and out for what they can get; but this is a book that’s more about men than women, because it is still men who run the world.

Caledonian Road is an angry book; one which looks at London and breaks open the heart of corruption in our society; watching it move from the old con tricks to the new ones. How we move from money laundering to deep-fakes and from bitcoin to old money no longer matters – very little has meaning or value any more.

Verdict: In so many ways this book is a tour de force and you should undoubtedly read it. For me, it was a little too long and though epic, it lacked a true empathetic character I could look to in order to find hope. Perhaps that is, after all, the message of this beautifully written, acerbic and astounding novel?

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I think this book is really special.

For me, what O'Hagan did exceptionally well was how he portrayal his characters. He depicts characters who aren't wholly good or bad, but people who show both traits. We see reasons feeding their behaviour and even when we can't empathise, we can understand, most of the time.

The characters are trying to exist in a post covid, post brexit Britain, mainly London. I felt for characters that I didnt like and that takes pretty clever writing in my opinion. I wanted some people to get their comeuppance, but I still felt for them (mostly).

I enjoyed the novel's scope and observations on art, corruption, feminism, racism, nationalism, migration, Britain, the class system, change and so much more.

From a personal perspective, I never wholeheartedly got behind any of the characters, and at times the cerebral journey of the characters over plot slowed down my enthusiasm. But I think this novel is a modern classic in the making. I've already preordered a copy for my shelves and a gift for future me.

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Caledonian Road by Andrew O’Hagan is a vibrant and stylish work of fiction. 2021, London, Campbell Flynn an art historian and celebrity intellectual is facing the midst of middle age. He is inspired and desires the finer things in life and art, surrounded by friends who court controversy and novelty. His student Milo Mangasha, provocative and outspoken, his thinking excites Campbell. But, Milo has a plan to unravel and reveal a series of crimes, secrets and scandals and the trusting Campbell may find his privilege and celebrity unable to save him from the resulting public downfall. The novel is fast paced and engaging with witty, vibrant prose that creates a dynamic view of contemporary London. I didn’t particularly care for or feel connected to any of the characters so at times didn’t feel as invested in the story as I thought I would be. However, it is a thought provoking, rich story that feels essential for the atmosphere and climate of the public space today. Stylish and vivid for fans of contemporary fiction with flair 4 stars ✨.

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2.5

I truly struggled with this tome. I read it 30 pages at a time because it addled my brain if I tried to read more. I know I'm in a minority (because I've looked at other reviews and ratings) but this just wasn't for me. I thought it was trying so terribly hard to be all things to all people.

We had Campbell Flynn and his wife Elizabeth who were both academically minded and talked in long, linguistically clever sentences about art in all its forms. We got Yuri and Aleksandr Bykov, the Russians who pulled the strings thanks to all their dodgy laundered money and fingers in every illegal pie going. We had the Duke of Kendal and his wife Candy who represented the landed gentry. Then there was Mrs Krupka who wasn't keen on other immigrants coming to England, along with her son, who organised illegal immigration, drug farms and sweat shops. Finally we had Milo and his girlfriend, Gosia who were the cast as disrupters but were, in fact, simply thieves who wanted to bring down the old guard and redirect their money to "worthy causes" (ie themselves and people like them).

I got lost in who was who, who was doing what to who, what everyone was talking about and what the point was that the book was trying to make.

I'm a fan of translated novels and books about places I've never been to and their culture. This often involves a lot of googling when words or cultural references are unclear. There were lots of things in this book that I didn't understand -- the difference was that after the first hundred pages I couldn't really be bothered to find out.

Just not for me. I gave it two and a half stars because I finished it, it didn't give me too much of a headache and I enjoyed some parts of it.

Thankyou to Netgalley and Faber & Faber for the advance review copy.

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Caledonian Road is a contemporary read set against the backdrop of London's diverse and vibrant Caledonian Road that depicts British society in the early 2020s. The book discusses issues such as class inequalities and political corruption to the impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic… to name just a few!

Even though it's a serious book, Caledonian Road is worth a read. it’s written in a way that's both smart and darkly humorous. It definitely makes you think about society and the challenges faced by everyday people!

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I adore O’Hagan. He is an epic writer, always current relevant and thrilling. The relationships and brokenness of the characters always trying to find or redeem themselves in settings we can all relate to.

Just superb thanks

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This was huge. But in being a fan of his previous work, and the way O'Hagan handles the human condition, I was left a little flat in the end.

Was the novel too long, or could we have gone further with a smaller cast of characters? Either way, a modern Dickensian, and I can appreciate the lengths O'Hagan reached for because I do believe he's an excellent author, and there are glimpses within these pages of it don't get me wrong.

I will definitely recommend this to our Australian readers and know in a few years O'Hagan will return with a smaller, concise novel that will ultimately be THE one. I can feel it.

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After Mayflies, Andrew O'Hagan immerses the reader in contemporary London, the global nature of the community, specifically of the vivid, varied quality of Caledonian Road location and the changes it has incurred. It is epic in scale, something you get an immediate grasp of this when right at the start, you are given the list of the huge cast of characters from disparate backgrounds that inhabit this cutting edge, satirical, state of the nation book, with its Victorian feel. It hits hard the nails on the head (and the coffin) in the illuminating picture it paints of Britain today. It lays bare the establishment, culture, power, class inequalities, secrets, crime, the normalisation of a political culture of corruption, money, scandal, academia, the impact of Russian oligarchs, exploitation, slavery, and so much more, as it opens in 2021.

The middle aged University College 'academic' art historian, Campbell Flynn, has written a well received biography on Vermeer, having come a long way from his working class Glasgow roots, he has no PhD and delivers a series of lectures at University College, with no marking involved. He married into minor aristocracy, his writings driven by financial needs, has 2 grown up children, a dubious best friend, sister Moira is an MP, and has an elderly Daily Mail reading tenant whose home is infested with rats. His state of mind greases the path for him to open up to a student, the intelligent Milo Mangasha, working class as Flynn once was, with his challenging perspectives, their worlds colliding, leading to the consequences that flow on from this.

There is a humanity and dark humour in the author's stylish, smart, engaging, beautifully written, and witty read that captivates throughout, the liberal guilt, explicitly drawing connections, the inter-relationships, the incorporation of recent key events, the creation of the many revolting characters, and pressing urgent issues of the day, that you simply do not notice its long length. It is hard to do justice to this relevant and compulsive novel, with its wonderful dialogue and terrific skewering one liners, set amidst the background of the likes of Covid and Brexit, but I have no doubt it will be successful upon publication. What I will say is that I loved it and its ability to hone in with skill, imagination, and thought on the London and Britain of today. A Highly recommended must read. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

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"He wanted life to be like an artwork, and it never quite is."

Caledonian Road, set in 2021, covers the lives of a diverse group of people living on or around the long road in Islington. It covers an impressively large range of topics including class, corruption, race and power within the UK, mostly focusing on London. There were so many elements of this book that intrigued me and that I enjoyed; it is scathing and unflinching in how far it goes to critique the inner workings of politics and at times is very insightful and powerful.

However, I found that I wasn't rushing to pick it up each time I read it and personally I don't think it needed to be as long as it was, with some elements feeling unnecessarily drawn out. Part of this may be the fact that I am a mood reader and it may be that this just wasn't the type of book I was going to hugely enjoy at the time I read it. This definitely hasn't put me off reading Andrew O'Hagan's other work and I've been meaning to pick up Mayflies for a long time. Big thanks to Netgalley and Faber for letting me read the ARC of this.

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The publisher’s blurb calls Caledonian Road a “state-of-the-nation novel”, and that is precisely what it is. Opening in May of 2021 and covering nearly a year — from the loosening of pandemic restrictions to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — big events play out in the background as a wide range of characters experience life in the heart of London in ways that precisely capture the mood of our times: this is one of those rare novels that I can imagine people reading long into the future to see how we lived and thought in this moment. Author Andrew O’Hagan explores issues of class and race and justice along Caledonian Road’s mile and a half length — a North London thoroughfare famous for its high ethnic diversity and staggering disparity of wealth — and through conversations held between a variety of characters, a large breadth of ideas are offered and challenged. This is epic in scope and succeeds completely. This will, no doubt, be huge for O’Hagan upon release in 2024 and I am grateful for the early access.

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I found this book difficult. It's brilliantly written with amazing insights both big and small that resonate and are both amusing and interesting. However, the characters are incredibly unlikeable and unsympathetic, so although I struggled through the book, enjoying some parts of it more than other, I really didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped to. I am a fan of Andrew O'Hagan so I'm putting it down to my headspace while reading this specific book.

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In my last review I expressed my disappointment that the author had situated their novel in a timeless, place-less bubble. Well, this novel more than made up for it. It is rooted firmly in London - the title refers to a rood just north of Kings Cross, an area that has been transformed in the last decade into a shopping destination, a high-end collection of speciality stores that cater to people with style and money. Campbell and Milo both live close to Caledonian Road, but are from very different backgrounds. Professor Campbell is known for his biography of Vermeer, and moves in circles which include politicians, authors and academics. His son is a DJ and daughter a model and although he was born in a high-rise in Glasgow, he is now related by marriage to minor aristocracy. One of his young students, Milo Mangasha, lives in a flat with his widowed dad and went to the local primary school, where his mum used to teach. He deals in cryptocurrencies and moves easily between his university life and the turf wars of his Caledonian Road friends. The two start to spend time together and their lives and worlds intertwine, revealing inequality, corruption and the threads that run through the communities of London.

The author draws on very recent historical events, including similar incidents and what was particularly notable is that two of these events occurred again whilst I was reading this novel. O’Hagen is writing about important, urgent issues that we are still dealing with and the specificity brings this slap-bang into the present, making this a very pertinent novel. It’s a real page turner with huge cast of characters to be entertained by, to love and to disagree violently with. I would thoroughly recommend this book to any adult who enjoys a good story which illuminates many of the issues that our country faces.

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A fantastic new state-of-the-nation epic from Andrew O'Hagan. A snapshot of the varied lives of those living around the mile and a half long Caledonian Road. It cover a range of topics including class, race, migrant labour, corruption, gang violence, and Russian money.

Brilliantly written and sure to be one that will be read over and over for years to come.

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Thank you for the advanced copy, I have read all previous work by Andrew O'Hagan and was pleased to get an advanced copy of this.
This is truly a state of the nation novel set on Caledonian Road, which is an area that is very diverse and covers a year starting from May 2021 which is during the COVID pandemic and stops at the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
I read this in the evenings before bed and felt this was the first one of his that I needed to read in stages.
This is so well written, covers this time period so we'll and goes into what many think but maybe won't say.

This is a must read and I believe will become a novel that many will read in th next few years to look back on this time.

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