Review – Mr Lynch’s Holiday by Catherine O’Flynn

By | November 16, 2013

From Amazon

Eamonn Lynch stares at the letter announcing the imminent arrival of his father, Dermot. His first thought is: I’ll make an excuse, I’ll put him off. But it is too late. Dermot is already here, in southern Spain, and soon he’ll discover that Eamonn lives in an unfinished building site; that Laura’s left him; and that it’ll be just the two of them, father and son, for two long, hot weeks.

Dermot doesn’t entirely recognise his son; how can he stay quite so long in bed? And where is Laura? Eamonn doesn’t seem to know quite what to make of his father’s arrival. On the other hand his neighbours – pushy and domineering Roger and Cheryl, smug but disillusioned property developers Becca and Ian – see in Dermot a respite from themselves.

Swept up in the British expats’ ceaseless barbecuing and bickering, both father and son slowly discover the truth about each other and the family past. But at the same time they uncover a shocking, unacknowledged secret at the heart of this defiant but beleaguered community.

Mr Lynch’s Holiday is a very funny and moving story about the clash of generations; about how families break apart and come together again; about how living “abroad” can feel less like a long holiday and more of a life sentence.

I loved Catherine O’Flynn’s first book, What Was Lost, with its endearing heroine in young detective Kate Meaney, its wry comment on our consumer society and its memorable setting of Green Oaks shopping centre.  For some inexplicable reason, her second – The News Where You Are – is still sitting unread, but I eagerly grasped the opportunity to read this new one when it was offered by netgalley and publishers Penguin UK.

In the same way as Green Oaks came to life in her first book, the true star of this show is the half-built expat community of Lomaverde in Southern Spain.  Lomaverde is “home” to Eamonn, who has embraced the dream of living in the sun while working in IT, only to have the dream become a nightmare.  His partner has left, the complex has been abandoned by the developers, the infinity pool is inhabited by feral cats and the community is far from the paradise that was sold.

Dermot, Eamonn’s widowed father and a former Birmingham bus driver, arrives for an unannounced short break with his son.  What unfolds is a really enjoyable exploration of the complex relationships between a father and son, peppered with reflections on Dermot’s own experiences as an Irish “immigrant” in Birmingham in the 1960s and an exploration of the concept of “home”. The ex-pat community is beautifully drawn with a fascinating balance of characters – the party animals, the sad and lonely, and the several that are both – and Dermot himself is a wonderful character, both naive and knowing. It might not sound like a joy, but I really loved this book – gently told, with reflections on a number of weighty themes around home and belonging, but also with some really poignant and laugh-out-loud moments, all set against a vividly drawn background. Catherine O’Flynn is an extraordinarily talented writer – highly recommended to anyone who enjoys something a little quirky and different.

Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel, What Was Lost, won the Costa First Novel Award, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and The Southbank Show Literature Award. It was longlisted for the Booker and Orange Prizes. She was named Waterstone’s Newcomer of the Year at the 2008 Galaxy British Book Awards. Her second novel The News Where You Are, published in 2010, was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, an Edgar Allen Poe Award and was a Channel 4 TV Book Club selection. Visit Catherine’s website for more information on the author and her books.

Mr Lynch’s Holiday was published by Penguin in August 2013 and is available for Kindle, and in both hardcover and paperback.  My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my e-copy.