cover image Caledonian Road

Caledonian Road

Andrew O’Hagan. Norton, $32.50 (608p) ISBN 978-1-324-07487-8

O’Hagan (Mayflies) centers this wide-ranging novel of ideas on an art critic and professor from a working-class Scottish background. In 2021 London, Campbell Flynn, 52, has achieved cultural prominence but continues to fall short of financial security. Unbeknownst to his aristocratic wife, he’s stopped paying his taxes and owes money to an unsavory friend. To raise funds, he writes an anonymous self-help book, which he hopes will be a bestseller. Into this moment of unease steps university student Milo Mangasha, a handsome, blue-collar Black man who schools Flynn on structural racism and the Dark Net and convinces him to convert his book advance to Bitcoin. The story also dips into the perspectives of dozens of other characters, including a Russian oligarch, an illegally trafficked young Polish man, and a men’s-rights activist. O’Hagan is at his best in the high society scenes; in one of them, he describes a duchess as resembling “an emaciated meerkat looking for an opportunity to enthuse.” Unfortunately, the scenes involving Mangasha’s young Black male friends are less convincing. Still, O’Hagan handles the many narrative strands with aplomb. Readers with a taste for the Dickensian will find much to admire. (June)