From the bestselling author of What Was Lost comes a spirited literary mystery about a television anchorman's search for the truth about the disappearances that surround him
Frank Allcroft, a television news anchor in his hometown (where he reports on hard-hitting events, like the opening of canine gyms for overweight pets), is on the verge of a mid-life crisis. Beneath his famously corny on-screen persona, Frank is haunted by loss: the mysterious hit-and-run that killed his predecessor and friend, Phil, and the ongoing demolition of his architect father's monumental postwar buildings. And then there are the things he can't seem to lose, no matter how hard he tries: his home, for one, on the market for years; and the nagging sense that he will never quite be the son his mothernewly ensconced in an assisted-living centerwanted.
As Frank uncovers the shocking truth behind Phil's death, and comes to terms with his domineering father's legacy, it is his beloved young daughter, Mo, who points him toward the future. Funny and touching, The News Where You Are is a moving exploration of what we do and don't leave behind, proving once more that Catherine O'Flynn's writing "shimmers with dark brilliance" (Chicago Tribune).
The News Where You Are is a 2011 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original.
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About the Author
Catherine O'Flynn's is the author of The News Where You Are and What Was Lost, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2007, was short-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, and was long-listed for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Birmingham, England.
Read an Excerpt
He gave up any pretense of jogging now and walked slowly along the lane, following in the wake of an empty crisp packet blown along the tarmac. Without its example he wasn't sure he'd have the will to move forward.
His steps were heavy and the elasticized cuffs of his tracksuit made his wrists itch. He looked at the loose flesh on the back of his hand pinched by the bright red polyester and found the contrast grotesque.
Mikey had let him down again. Finally he understood that Mikey would never do it.
The sky had darkened as he walked along and now the first fat drops of rain splattered on the road around him. Phil nodded his head. Rain was all that had been missing.
He heard a car approaching. Its passing force would whip the crisp packet away and he didn't know what he'd follow then. The driver was making the most of the straight country lane and picking up speed. Phil moved slightly closer to the hedgerow on his left. He knew he cut a pitiful figure— an old rain- soaked man dressed head to toe in Nike. Jimmy bloody Savile.
The car was getting closer now and as it did it veered slightly toward Phil's side of the lane. Phil smiled blandly in its direction—force of habit. As it drew down upon him, he realized that the driver wasn't going to swerve away. In the last few seconds, the sky's reflection on the windscreen vanished, and Phil saw the familiar face behind the wheel, white with fear and running with tears.
Six Months Later
Frank's daughter sat in the front passenger seat humming the same tune over and over. The notes spiraled upwards and then abruptly plummeted, before starting the ascent again. Frank drove toward the city.
"What's the tune, Mo?" asked Frank. "It's a song by the Beatles. It's a man asking questions about when he gets old." "What? "When I'm Sixty-four'?" "Yeah. That's it . . . Dad, do you want to know something?" "Erm, yes, please." "When I'm sixty-four, I'll be eight times older than I am
now. Eight times eight is sixty-four." "That's true." She looked out of the window. "Eight hundred percent!" She shook her head in amazement and began to hum again. Frank frowned. "But "When I'm Sixty-four' doesn't sound anything like that." Mo beamed. "I know! I invented a new tune. It's better." "Oh, okay." Frank paused. "It's very different to the original.
Are the words the same?" "I don't know, I'm just humming." "I know, but in your head are the words the same?" "No. They're better too. He wants to know will there be robots,
and will his cat be able to talk and will his car fl y." "It's quite a strange tune." "It's how he thinks music will sound when he's old." "Oh, I see, future music. That explains it."
Mo hummed another few bars and then, to Frank's relief, stopped.
"Do you think Gran ever listens to music?"
"Not future music. I don't think so."
"No. I mean any music."
"Yes, I'm sure she does sometimes. She has a radio in her room."
"I know, but it's all covered in dust. She should listen to music. I think it would make her less sad. She could listen to stuff she remembered when she was young."
Frank said nothing.
"Maybe I could take her some old music and she could listen to it on my headphones."
Frank glanced at Mo. "Sometimes old music makes people sad. It reminds them of the past and things that have gone."
"Oh," said Mo.
Frank reached across and squeezed her hand. Mo spent a lot of time trying to think of ways to make his mother less unhappy. It was a project for her.
"Are we going a different way to the supermarket?"
"I want to show you something first."
Frank put the radio on and they listened to a comedy program. Mo laughed when Frank laughed.
He parked at a meter in a back street and then walked with Mo down to the busy ring road. A pedestrian bridge spanned the six lanes of traffic and Mo and Frank climbed the zigzagging concrete steps to the top. Halfway across they stopped. Frank bent down toward Mo so she could hear him above the roar of the traffic. Her hair blew into his face.
"Remember I told you about my dad."
"That he had a dog!" said Mo excitedly.
"Yeah, that's right. He had a dog when he was a boy. But do you remember what I said my dad's job was?"
"Yes. He was an architect. He made buildings."
"Can you see that block over there? The tall one with the dark glass."
"Yeah. I can see it."
"That's called Worcester House. My dad designed that building."
"Did he live in it?"
"No, he didn't live in it. We lived in a house. He made this for people to work in."
"How many floors has it got?"
"Are there escalators?"
"No, there are two lifts."
"Can we go up in them?"
"No, I'm sorry. We can't go in the building now."
"Can we go and look at it?"
"That's where we're going."
Mo ran across the rest of the bridge and then waited for Frank to catch up. The building was a little farther away than it seemed from the bridge, tucked amid a cluster of other blocks, converted town houses and car parks. Worcester House was a classic mid-period Douglas H. Allcroft and Partners creation. Built in 1971, it was an uncompromising, thuggish-looking block, clad in precast concrete panels and devoid of all exterior decoration. Despite its height it appeared squat and defensive, occupying a large plot on the corner of Carlton Street and Newman Row, glowering down on the few Georgian blocks still remaining in the center.
As they drew closer to it at street level, Mo noticed the white boards all around the outside of the building:
"Why are the boards there, Dad?"
"They're there to protect people when they demolish the building."
Mo stopped walking. "They're demolishing it?"
Frank nodded. "That's why I brought you today; it'll be gone soon."
"But why are they knocking it down? Is it broken?"
"No, it's not broken; it's fine. It's just . . . they don't need it anymore."
"But, Dad, loads of people could work here. Or they could use it to put homeless people in—that'd be better than sleeping on the streets. They could sleep under desks and go up and down in the lift s."
"They want to build new homes in the city now—apartments for the people who work here— and this building isn't right for homes. Dad didn't build it for that, and so they say it has to be taken down and started again."
Mo thought for a while. "Does that happen to all buildings? Do they all get knocked down?"
"Some stay for a long time. Like Aston Hall. But lots don't. It's a bit like clothes. You know, you wouldn't wear the clothes Mom and I used to wear—they'd seem really uncool to you— and sometimes that happens with buildings. People just don't like them anymore; they aren't fashionable."
Frank realized that unfashionable wasn't quite adequate. People did not feel about his father's buildings the way they felt about marble-washed denim or ski pants. They might smile ruefully and shake their heads about their own lapses in taste, but not those imposed on their city. Aside from the family home he built in Edgbaston, only two of the eight buildings his father had created in the city remained. In a few weeks there would be only one.
Mo was squinting at the building, counting the windows. When she'd finished, she turned back to Frank. "But, Dad, sometimes things come back into fashion. Like Mom always says, the clothes in the shops now are the same as twenty years ago. Maybe if they waited this building would be in fashion again."
Frank nodded. "Maybe. People don't always agree, though. A few of us thought it should be saved, but others didn't and . . . well, they won in the end."
"I don't think this building is uncool."
Frank got out his camera. "Anyway, I want to take a photo of you and the building behind you. So however many different buildings come and go you'll always know this building was here, and that you and I stood on this spot and talked about it one morning."
Mo wouldn't smile for the photo. She said it was for when she was grown-up and serious. Afterward she said, "Dad, are you sad that it's going to be demolished?"
Frank looked up at the top floor of the building and remembered looking out from there as a boy. "Yes, I am."
Mo held his hand. She looked at the other buildings in the street. Worcester House was the only one surrounded by boards. "Me too."
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Frank notes that Birmingham is continuously reinventing itself for the future what parallels, if any, do you see between Birmingham's endless cycles of reinvention and Phil's? Is Douglas interested in reinvention?
2. Consider the marriages in the novel. Do you think Andrea and Mo keep Frank grounded? Did Michelle do that for Phil, or Elsie for Michael? What about Maureen for Douglas? What did you think about Frank's encounter with Phil's first wife, Irene? What does the novel have to say about the importance of relationships?
3. Frank is very close to his daughter, Mo. Can their relationship be seen as a rejection, on Frank's part, of the way his parents raised him? Do you think that Mo's cheer and her "improvements" have an effect on her grandmother, even if perhaps that effect is not as obvious as Mo would like?
4. What are the consequences of not living "in the present" in the novel? Do you think it's worse to be preoccupied with the future or with the past? Can anyone does anyone in the novellive entirely in the present? Or is that a privilege relegated only to children?
5. Frank "held on to the belief that people saw beyond the surface." What are some of the other characters' perspectives on the matter? How does the novel deal with this theme?
6. Who makes the better impression, appearance-wise, as a young man: Phil or Michael? As an old man? Knowing what you do about each of their characters, however, who do you think was happier? Who do you think was stronger? What do you think this friendship was based upon? What did Michael see in Phil that Irene, for example, didn't? Do you think you can ever really, truly know another person?
7. Compare Maureen and Philthey both seem to seek death, although Phil does so actively, whereas Maureen "sits in here waiting to fall off the branch." Is she simply unwilling to put any effort into dying, or is she just too afraid to expect anything more?
8. How does Cyril deal with aging? Do you think that in some ways he's deluding himself? Is that necessarily a bad thing? Were you surprised by Cyril's confession at the end of the novel? Did it change your feelings about him?
9. Why do you think Frank attends the funerals of those who die forgotten? Is it the same reason he's such a "hoarder?" Do you think these actions and habits are melancholic? Or is this kind of remembrance and nostalgia a way of celebrating the past?
10. What were your initial thoughts regarding Phil's state of mind and the hit-and-run while reading the prologue? Were you surprised later on by the revelations about Phil's mental health? How did that knowledge affect your original perception of Phil?
11. The final lines of the book note that "our absence is what remains of us." Do you agree? How is this illustrated in the novel?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"The News Where You Are" starts with a walk, a revelation and a death. Six months later, Frank and Mo-his eight-year-old daughter-visit the building that Frank's father designed, the building that will soon be demolished. Frank takes a picture of Mo standing in front of the building in an effort to prove, if even just to himself, that the building will be remembered. This pattern of Frank feeling the need to remember the forgotten appears in almost every interconnected plotline. Why does Frank's mom act the way she does? Will someone ever want to purchase Frank's house? Is there any value in Frank preventing the demolition of his dad's last building? But the biggest question of all, the question that Frank investigates the most, concerns the glamorous Paul, the silent Michael and the comedic Cyril: How does Michael's death connect to Paul's death.and where does Cyril fit in? Though loss is the focus point, this story isn't particularly depressing or sappy. It reads like a snapshot collection of pictures that switch between the past and present. "The News Where You Are" is a novel that executes reality very well. The characters easily feel like people I could've passed up on the street yesterday. There is as much to look forward to as there is to look back at, and "The News Where You Are" does a beautiful job reminding readers of that. Reviewed by Tiffany Cole for Suspense Magazine
In England, middle aged popular news anchor Frank Allcroft overly reflects where his life has been and where he is going. He hates his job and knows how his peers scorn his talent or lack of as they would insist. He struggles with an eternally depressed mother since his father the architect who was never around anyway died. However, the recent death of his buddy Phil shakes Frank to his core as he ponders mortality; that of his own. Frank understands his broadcasting is inane with all the news unfit to air. He wanders the town seeing how many things change yet remains the same. A distraught Frank feels for the lonely people living and dead; visiting graves in which no one cares. He detests urban blight but loathes even more demolition as he is unable to move on unlike his mom who insists good and bad are always memories that need to be demolished so one can move away from the past and live in the present. With a nod to the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, this is a strong somewhat melancholy character study of someone who reflects on his life and concludes the world is terrible place to live especially when one feels alone as he does, but dying alone is the punctuation end. Yet in spite of his gloomy outlook on past, present and future, Frank never turns self-pitying as he is stoic believing that's life and death; which ironically leaves the reader with hope. Character study fans will enjoy the story of Frank, caught between a rock and hard place inside his mind yet never quite crushed. The News Where You Are is powerful storytelling. Harriet Klausner
The News Where You Are, by Catherine O'Flynn, begins as a gentle character study of an aging news anchor, popular to viewers but something of a joke to his colleagues. Off the air, Frank Allcroft spends his time obsessively analyzing parts of his life: the legacy of his deceased father, his depressed mother, and his unfulfilling job. After the death of a close friend, he suddenly feels untethered and lost. To ease his conscience about the superficial nature of his job, Frank makes a habit of taking a personal interest in news stories that feature abandoned people. He explores parts of his town, old and new, and watches the march of time and its effects on the inhabitants and their attitudes. He visits the graves of those who die nameless or unloved, and in this he becomes involved in a mystery that actually wraps around his own obsessions with the past. It's at this point that the novel, set in small town England, becomes far less simple or gentle. By searching the themes of abandonment, the race of time, and the nature of friendship, the author creates a suspenseful, if untraditional, thriller that leaves you pondering how much of what we know-whether about friends or family-is actually real. A main theme in Frank's life is his late father, an architect, who was usually absent; Frank had consoled himself as a child by imagining that his father sacrificed his family for a greater good. His belief system is reevaluated when the buildings end up demolished. "As his buildings were bulldozed, one by one, Frank began to suspect that often what vanished revealed more than what remained." His mother finds the demolition far easier to bear, and in most ways she is able to move forward despite her age and depression. She chides Frank: "Everything was a memento for you. Everything reminded you of something. Nothing was allowed to be forgotten. I can't imagine anything worse" Catherine O'Flynn writes in a beautiful prose that alternates between bitter and sweet, comical and tragic. At times she illustrates the pain involved in the most personal of disappointments without overwrought emotion. I appreciated that while Frank, the protagonist, is pensive, he never descends into the maudlin or pathetic. He still manages to go through his life with responsibility and acuity. Modern fiction is populated with plenty of self-absorbed and despondent characters, lost in messes of their own design. This novel is refreshing because Frank doesn't fit that cliché; he keeps functioning and proactive, despite his inclinations to dwell in the past. The denouement of the novel is complicated, and I won't spoil it here. Much must be said, though, about O'Flynn's fascinating voice and style of description as embodied in Frank. When Frank visits a dead man's house, one who died alone and unknown, he imagines him ".diligently cleaning a house that would only be visited by strangers after his death. He thought squalor would have been less sad." Or when observing a mental hospital converted into condos, he muses "who would choose to live in a place of former suffering? What level of hubris was required to feel so utterly undaunted by the past?" Lines like those stopped me in my tracks, wondering how a mystery novel could be so deep and relevant and still retain its suspense. The mystery is a introspective read, and it left me pondering more about the people I know who are alone, who appear to be lost, and in comparison those who seem to have
The News Where You Are, by Catherine O'Flynn, begins as a gentle character study of an aging news anchor, popular to viewers but something of a joke to his colleagues. Off the air, Frank Allcroft spends his time obsessively analyzing parts of his life: the legacy of his deceased father, his depressed mother, and his unfulfilling job. After the death of a close friend, he suddenly feels untethered and lost. To ease his conscience about the superficial nature of his job, Frank makes a habit of taking a personal interest in news stories that feature abandoned people. He explores parts of his town, old and new, and watches the march of time and its effects on the inhabitants and their attitudes. He visits the graves of those who die nameless or unloved, and in this he becomes involved in a mystery that actually wraps around his own obsessions with the past. It¿s at this point that the novel, set in small town England, becomes far less simple or gentle. By searching the themes of abandonment, the race of time, and the nature of friendship, the author creates a suspenseful, if untraditional, thriller that leaves you pondering how much of what we know-whether about friends or family-is actually real. A main theme in Frank¿s life is his late father, an architect, who was usually absent; Frank had consoled himself as a child by imagining that his father sacrificed his family for a greater good. His belief system is reevaluated when the buildings end up demolished. ¿As his buildings were bulldozed, one by one, Frank began to suspect that often what vanished revealed more than what remained.¿ His mother finds the demolition far easier to bear, and in most ways she is able to move forward despite her age and depression. She chides Frank: ¿Everything was a memento for you. Everything reminded you of something. Nothing was allowed to be forgotten. I can¿t imagine anything worse¿Catherine O¿Flynn writes in a beautiful prose that alternates between bitter and sweet, comical and tragic. At times she illustrates the pain involved in the most personal of disappointments without overwrought emotion. I appreciated that while Frank, the protagonist, is pensive, he never descends into the maudlin or pathetic. He still manages to go through his life with responsibility and acuity. Modern fiction is populated with plenty of self-absorbed and despondent characters, lost in messes of their own design. This novel is refreshing because Frank doesn¿t fit that cliché; he keeps functioning and proactive, despite his inclinations to dwell in the past.The denouement of the novel is complicated, and I won¿t spoil it here. Much must be said, though, about O¿Flynn¿s fascinating voice and style of description as embodied in Frank. When Frank visits a dead man¿s house, one who died alone and unknown, he imagines him ¿¿diligently cleaning a house that would only be visited by strangers after his death. He thought squalor would have been less sad.¿ Or when observing a mental hospital converted into condos, he muses ¿who would choose to live in a place of former suffering? What level of hubris was required to feel so utterly undaunted by the past?¿ Lines like those stopped me in my tracks, wondering how a mystery novel could be so deep and relevant and still retain its suspense.The mystery is a introspective read, and it left me pondering more about the people I know who are alone, who appear to be lost, and in comparison those who seem to have it all. This novel reveals that nothing is so simple as appearances. In all, I'd say this in the top five of books I've read in the last several years...it's that good.
This is a little book, seemingly simple on its surface but deeply rich when you turn a closer eye to it. The surface is about Frank, a local British newscaster for a regional news show, and his reactions to the death of his famous predecessor, the demolition of some buildings his father spent his life designing, the reality of his depressed mother in a nursing home, and moving his family from the country to the city. But the undercurrent of it all deals with, essentially, what we do with old things: old people, old buildings, old jobs, old mementos piled in the attic. This is a book about reinvention and demolition and what is involved in choosing one or the other. To borrow a term from across the pond, it's BRILLIANT.
The beauty of this book lies not in the overarching story line--the bit of background mystery which drives the book--but in the back and forth that takes place underneath the umbrella of that story, which is just an excuse, really, for everything going on between the book's covers. For some reason this book, this unprepossessing book, made me think about structure and narrative in a way I haven't since I was in school: the use of vignettes versus the use of a single, driving narrative, for example. While this is a novel, I like thinking of it as a series of connected sketches, I suppose because each one has this moment in it, and there are too many such moments for one novel. Also, I didn't care about the story, but I enjoyed the writing so much, and the smaller moments of the book, that I wanted to spend my time in its pages regardless--and I think that's a wonderful thing to say about a piece of writing.
From My Blog...Appearances can be deceiving as evidenced in Catherine O¿Flynn¿s novel, The News Where You Are. On the surface, the novel is about local news reporter Frank Allcroft and how his life has changed since the death of his predecessor, Phil Smethway, and to a degree it is, but that is only the surface. Frank is rethinking much of his life and his future while going through the day-to-day motions of being a good husband, father and son as well as being the best local news reporter he can muster.Six months after Phil¿s death, Frank is noticing the void left by loss. The demolition of the buildings his deceased father was the architect for, his visits to see his perpetually melancholy mother, and most concerning to his wife, Frank¿s newest obsession of attending the funerals of those who have passed away, whether broadcasted or merely overlooked. To add to Frank¿s firm belief that there must be something left behind after one ceases to exist, is the question of Phil¿s death and how could it have been possible for it to have been an accident when the road is wide and flat? Frank is not the only one wondering about the past and leaving a mark on the world. Michael, a chum of Phil¿s has found himself wandering to places that are no longer and reminiscing about the past.O¿Flynn writes several stories interwoven into one, which on the surface seem akin to midlife crises, workaday observances, and the dichotomy of the optimism of youth in Frank¿s daughter Mo verses the pure melancholy of the elderly as seen in Frank¿s mother Maureen. And yet, O¿Flynn takes the reader far deeper into the story, beyond the everyday, even beyond the mysterious death of Phil, to a philosophical discussion, and at times, debate about life. The News Where You Are is a deeply moving, heartwarming and often witty look at life and how what matters is often the things we leave out. The characters are exceedingly realistic and one is easily drawn into the novel, fully absorbed and thinking about life and death and what is truly important in life. I would not hesitate to recommend The News Where You Are to anyone looking for a brilliantly written novel that will entertain, enlighten and make one give pause. The News Where You Are would make for an excellent discussion book.
Poor Frank Allcroft! He's a news show anchor with little social awareness and not much of a sense of humour. He's still mourning the death of the anchor he has replaced. Phil was a legend, and Frank's mentor. He's also 43 and verging on a midlife crisis. He begins to look into Phil's hit and run death a little more closely. Frank actually 'deals' with the news stories he covers belatedly. Deaths of people with no next of kin particularly bother Frank. Frank was a great character, never wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, but ends up being put upon. It makes him seem like a pushover, but he really isn't.The story moves along nicely, with a slight mystery. I wouldn't call this book a mystery from the genre, but there is an overarching mystery to be solved, along with Frank settling issues in his life. O'Flynn writes wonderfully rich characters like Frank and his wife and daughter, who are also very real. The overlying themes in this book are about appearances. Frank's father was an architect involved in the rebuilding after the war. His buildings are now being torn down after valuing function over appearance. His town planning idea shows that you can't always plan for things to turn out the way you want them to. Frank does a lot of reminiscing about his childhood and his parents, and how they led him to be the way he is. The book isn't long, but as I try to write about it, there are so many ideas and layers that it is hard to describe. So, O'Flynn - terrific writing, lots of humour, rich characters, a mystery or two that keep you turning the page, great surprising ending, along with some social commentary. I think I've found a new author to watch.
Catherine O'Flynn is a wonderful writer. The language in this book just flows, and invokes strong, lasting images of people and places.This is the story of Frank Allcroft, a local TV news reporter. Frank's character is deeply and richly drawn. He is struggling with finding meaning in his life as he works with an incompatible colleague; visits his elderly, chronically sad mother in a nursing home; and remains a loving husband and father. He begins honouring the people he covers on the news who pass away unnoticed and alone by attending their funerals or visiting their graves. He also visits buildings his deceased father designed as they are being demolished. This is a story of Frank's struggle with society's ability to lose people and things with seemingly little notice.The main story line has to do with Frank's former colleague, Phil, who was run over under mysterious circumstances. It's a good story, and the author ties it together with scenes from Frank's life as he ponders Phil's death. It's very well done.Definitely worth reading.
After reading What Was Lost I was eagerly anticipating O'Flynn's new novel. But after reading it I have been thinking about how to review it. Did I love it as much as the first one - probably not. It is quite a slow moving exploration of Frank Allcroft's life as a TV presenter and his midlife crisis in Birmingham England. Almost every character in the book is dealing with a loss of some kind whether it is a death, loss of youth or loss of a dream. My favorite character was not one of the main ones - it was Julia the disillusioned co-anchor and I wished she had been a larger part of the book. The death of Frank's predecessor provides a mystery theme that is neatly and surprisingly solved at the end of the book. Do you get a better mental picture of Frank's surroundings if you have lived in England as I have - yes I think you do. But does it lessen your reading experience - probably not. Although I did have to wonder how many non-Britons would get the Jimmy Savile reference on the first page and the mental picture it created. But all in all it was pleasant way to spend a couple of nights and there was never any danger that I wasn't going to finish book.
When I read the description of this book on ER, I thought it sounded like a perfect summer read for me. But, sadly, I just couldn't get into the book. I really wanted to, and I tried several times, but the book just did not grip me. I don't think the writing was bad, and it seemed like it would be easy to read...I guess it just wasn't my cup of tea after all. I am so sorry. However, I will be passing this book along in the hopes that someone else will be able to appreciate it, and give you a wonderful review.
Frank Allcroft is a news anchor in England on a show I imagine to be similar to Regis & Kelly here in the U.S. He is happily married with a lovely child. Frank is haunted by the past, his mother's moods and his architect father's unavailability and cold demeanor. His father passed away years ago, but Frank visits his mother in her rest home, and she is still all doom & gloom. Phil was the previous news anchor of the show and has remained friends with Frank even after moving on to national fame. The book opens with Phil's death and the mystery surrounding that death. This was a slow-starter and, at first, somewhat confusing. I loved O'Flynn's previous book, "What Was Lost," and so I stayed with this one, and things eventually started to flow. O'Flynn is an amazing writer, and her characters jump off the pages. Look forward to reading more of her books.
I was excited to read this, as I really enjoyed Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel, What Was Lost. This book did not disappoint. Overriding themes of loss, what we remember, and who remembers us. Wrap that up with a little mystery, and a surprising twist, and you've got a page-turner that makes you think. I enjoyed the author's technique of moving forward and back through time, to give us snippets from other characters' points-of-view -- in some books this can be really annoying, but here it moved the story along nicely. A very good book - I'm looking forward to the author's next novel!
I really enjoyed Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel What Was Lost (my review) and was looking forward to her second - The News Where You Are.Frank is a television news presenter. Viewers enjoy him, but it is the bad puns and jokes (penned by odd duck Cyril - inherited from former presenter and star Phil) that are the appeal for many of the viewers. He lives in a house that he's having trouble selling as it's removed from everything. He loves his wife Andrea who loves him just as much. They have a young daughter Mo who is a breath of fresh air with her sunny view and outlook. Frank's mother Maureen lives in a Seniors development and can only seem to see the worst in everything. Frank questions the verdict of accidental death in Phil's case and does some investigating on his own.Back cover blurbs include the phrases 'brilliantly funny and heartbreakingly sad and spirited literary mystery". I must say I really didn't find the book funny at all. I did find sadness though. Frank is a multi leveled character. By turns he seems lost, but he's a fantastic father, devoted son and faithful friend. Yet is all seems to be done with a sense of obligation. Frank's father was an architect and the demolition of many of his buildings seems to be an allegory for the breaking down of many barriers in Frank's life, past and present. O'Flynn uses architecture and descriptions of same to mirror many characters' moods and feelings.The character of Mo stole the show for this reader. Her determined attempts to cheer up her grandmother, her vibrant imagination and her love of life and everything in it were a high point for me.The 'spirited mystery' wasn't there for this reader. The mystery surrounding Phil's death certainly is an impetus in Frank rediscovering his life but did not fit the 'mystery' tag for me.O'Flynn has a way with words and many of her scenarios and descriptions are quite eloquent in their simplicity. But the novel moved along quite slowly in the first half for me - the second half was less meandering. I wanted to love this book as much as I did her first one, but for me it was just an okay read.
This is the story of a newscaster and how he deals with life (and death). Frank is taking to heart too much of his news stories. As much as he feels connected to them (and especially with people who die lonely deaths), he ironically seems to have trouble connecting with his elderly mother.I liked this book for its characters and story. It was well-written and held my interest. I found it a bit sad in parts - not anything specific - but just the sense of time passing and faded memories for things and people once enjoyed and still longed for. All in all a very good book.
Catherine O'Flynn is a great writer, she transforms small things into a good piece of fiction. Nothing major happened, but there was great writing, and I do like great writing.This is the story about Frank, a news anchor who has been in the business for 20 years. He likes where he is and never wanted to be bigger. He is also a joke, a man famous for bad one-liners. Something that he inherited from his mentor and friend, but he never did get them right. Now Phil is dead, in a strange accident. And Frank is left with his strange hobby as his wife calls is, going to funerals of people who had no one else coming.Frank is a good guy, he likes his job (ok not the crap jokes), but he is a solid guy. He loves his wife and cute little daughter. And he searches for lost relatives for those people who have died without any family showing up. His mum seems constantly depressed, but he visits her. But there is something sad over him, perhaps cos if his search through out the book. But that will change too.The book uses flashbacks to show some clues, Michaels past (the guy whose relatives he is trying to find), some moments from Phil's past, before his death and earlier, and lastly Frank's past. His dad who was always working and his mum who had good and bad days.Life in general, and a search for that which is lost is what this book is about. From people gone, to his dad's buildings being torn down to make new for new ones. And the last sentence of the book tells you everything:"Our absence is what remains of us."It's beautiful and sad at the same time.She has a way of telling is straight, but there is also a subtle humour in this book. A strange book, and a completely normal book at the same time. What I am left with is that she writes great fiction, easy fiction, and fiction that should be noticed.Final thoughts: I do like my genres, and sometimes I need an author who can write beautiful prose, saying a lot, or saying nothing, and she is good. I sometimes like books cos of the story, sometimes for the written word, and this time it was the latter.
O'Flynn's latest novel, set in her native Birmingham, revolves around the themes of aging, memories, regrets, and forgiveness, particularly in the life of her main character, Frank Allcroft, co-anchor of a popular local TV chat/news show. Frank is questioning his decision to move his wife and daughter to a home in a small country town that has turned out to be rather bleak; and he is haunted by the hit-and-run death of his predecessor and mentor, Phil Smethway. Distressed by the planned demolition of the last of his architect father's buildings, Frank reminisces about their rather distant relationship. Even though he visits his mother three times weekly in her senior citizen residence, he can't shake the memories of her emotional withdrawal--a withdrawal she still maintains. And why is it that he feels such a responsibility to lonely people like Mike Church who end up in the news solely because they died alone and without being missed by anyone? Frank, in his late 40s, seems to be reassessing his own life as he hears the clock ticking behind his ear.It's a little hard to pin this novel down. In part, it's a mystery about learning the truth of Phil's death (and the mystery of Mike Church as well). In part, it's a family drama. And in part, it's a book about a midlife crisis and a man coming to terms with his past. O'Flynn has structured the novel into short chapters, most of them about Frank but others focused on the other characters, and the chapters also shift in terms of their time frames. Overall, it's a solid but not outstanding book. I almost gave it four stars but cut back to 3.5, mainly because I felt that O'Flynn may have been trying to cover too much territory and as result sometimes lost focus.
A thoroughly enjoyable story of a regional TV newscaster, the people in his life, and his search for more information about two people who've died -- one a friend and colleague, the other a childhood friend of the friend.What Catherine O'Flynn really excels at is characterization. Every character here sparks with personality and I came away surprised at some of the 'people' I wanted to know better and spend more time with. It's not a dark and heavy read; recommended for summer reading or anytime you want something a bit in between the light and the heavy.
The story of a newsreader, his friends, and his obsessions. This was a difficult book for me to read, in part because it kept jumping around in time - and not in a good way. At one point, when the author was discussing the death of a character, I had to go back to see if this had been mentioned before, or if the proof I was reading simply had a glaring error. Not an error - simply a disconnected narrative. Well written from a story point of view, I think this book would have been much more engaging if it had been written in a slightly more linear manner. It did get more compelling as it went on, so if you can make it past the first 40 pages or so, you may enjoy it.
Well written novel about a newsreader who delves into the death of his friend and peer, Phil.It was just 2 chapters too long, as by the time I got to the "ah-ha" reveal, it should have been wrapped up.
I had been putting off reading this one for a while because I hadn't heard a lot of strong things about it. I wish I hadn't put off reading it because I absolutely loved it. Or maybe it's one of those cases of going into it with low expectations and then it can really blow you away. Basically, if you like subtle British humor (or should I say humour), the likes of which Mark Haddon's 'A Curious Incident of A Dog in the Night Time' also excelled at then you will probably love this one too. If you don't then, you will just think it's your average story. Our hero is a bumbling middle aged man named Frank who lives in Birmingham, England and is a newscaster for a local evening news show. He will never make it big time and for the most part he is ok with that. He has a wife and daughter who love him and he loves them but he is having a bit of a mid life crisis. It all probably starts with the death of one of his closest friends and mentors Phil. The death is a bit mysterious and Frank becomes, maybe a little unhealthily, obsessed with solving it.However, that isn't necessarily the main focus of the book. I think, perhaps, the main focus of the book is just Frank's average life. All of the characters that come in and out of it and finding the humor in the everyday. His daughter Mo, who I think is around age 8 is an absolute delight and is probably his greatest joy. He needs to learn to appreciate her more. His mother is in a senior living center and is a mean old lady but Frank and his family try to cheer her up. They can't seem to but it is entertaining watching them try. Frank's father has passed away and was an architect whose buildings are being torn down. Frank is trying to save them. Andrea, Frank's wife, often says that their life is very involved with Frank's past and is important that he learns to move into the future. I think that is what the story is trying to deal with more than solving the mystery of Phil.However, we do solve the mystery and it is an interesting ride. We meet the people Phil was dealing with up until his death. Phil was a newscaster who had made it to the big time but didn't want to grow old, however old he may have been at the time of his death. Was it an accident or not? The book is all very subtle but I was hooked from the get go and I have O'Flynn's first book 'What Was Lost' on my shelf and I am looking forward to digging that back out now too.
While the writing style is crisp, clean and easy to follow, I found the story telling to meander for the first half of the book. Okay, it actually meandered through most of the book, but as it was deliberately writtne in this manner I won't dwell on that. The story is about an aging local TV newscaster Frank, his mentor Phil and Frank's reminisces regarding his childhood and relationships with his parents. Frank's father Douglas was a well known local architect of repute and the void between father and son is brought to light over time. While there is a mystery in this story - Phil was killed while out jogging on a country road by a hit and run - the story is really about relationships, aging and Frank's examination of the complexities of life. Overall, the story started out as a cluster of seemingly unrelated ramblings with focused direction, but the last 50 pages of the story managed to bring closure on some of the topics raised in this story. It is an easy story to read - I read it over the course of one day - but I do admit I was tempted halfway through to abandon the book as not exactly my cup of tea. I am glad I stuck it out to the end, but it is not a favorite that I would re-read in the future.
Truly beautiful work about aging and personal history. The main character's fascination with the solitary deaths of strangers, including the deaths of more abstract things like styles, beauty, and professional aspirations, ties the whole book together. In many ways, this is a book about what time takes from us, both individually and as a society. As such, it is a very sad book, but thanks to O'Flynn's artistry, it is never depressing. In the unlikeliest of places, O'Flynn finds an affectionate humor that never sinks to the gallows level, and in the unlikeliest situations, she finds hope. So that, in the end, "The News Where You Are" is not only about what time takes from us, but also about the subtle gifts it bestows.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)Although everything about it screams "pleasantly middlebrow British character dramedy," readers of the Booker-nominated Catherine O'Flynn's latest, The News Where You Are, should brace themselves for something a lot darker and more depressing; for in telling this story of an aging local TV news anchor, whose most lasting fame is among snotty college students in ironic love with his terrible jokes, right at the same time that the city he lives in is in the process of destroying all his late father's ugly old '70s architectural projects (which themselves replaced a series of crumbling Victorian buildings which no one at the time wanted, which ironically in modern times have now become highly sought after), O'Flynn's main message seems to be, "None of us appreciate things until it's too late to do anything about it, living instead in perpetual dissatisfaction and disappointment at the details of our lives, until finally the sweet release of death comes to us all." And that's a heavy message for what's essentially the story of a bunch of genial, middle-aged, middle-class suburban Brits, and the comings and goings in the small town where they live, which is why I found myself divided over my opinion of the book by the time I finished -- an interesting and well-done read but an undeniable downer as well, one whose pure banality eventually wears you down like ten thousand drops from a Chinese water torture. It's getting an only middle-of-the-road score today for that reason, and only a limited recommendation as well.Out of 10: 7.5
I was a big fan of O'Flynn's debut novel, What Was Lost, so I eagerly anticipated her second novel. Although not quite as satisfying as What Was Lost, The News Where You Are was a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read--combining humor with affecting examinations into the nature of loss.Loss is a major theme in this book, as it was with her first novel. In this book, our "hero" Frank Allcroft is dealing with loss on all sorts of levels--the loss of his architect father's buildings (which are being knocked down one by one) and the loss of his friend and colleague Phil (who died in a never solved hit-and-run accident). As he shuffles through life, shackled with his corny on-air persona and a gentle loserish air he can't seem to shed (even with his own wife), Frank decides to investigate Phil's death on his own--seeking answers about why the vibrant and successful Phil made some strange phone calls to Frank shortly before his death and the connection between Phil and an elderly man found dead on park bench. Interspersed with this storyline is Frank's memories of his childhood--populated by his workaholic father and unhappy mother. As his father's buildings are demolished one by one, Frank realizes he must come to terms with his own past if he is to have a rewarding future.As in What Was Lost, buildings and the physical surroundings of Birmingham play a large part in the story--becoming almost characters themselves. Like the Green Oaks Shopping Center in What Was Lost, buildings, new subdivisions and the assisted-living center become part of the story--given as much attention by O'Flynn as her human characters. O'Flynn tends to anthropomorphize cities, buildings and houses--imbuing them with meaning and personalities. I personally enjoy this aspect of O'Flynn's books; it makes for interesting reading. "That's what I liked about this city." "What? That it's crap and everything fails?" "No. That it has these ridiculous dreams, that it always tries to reinvent itself, to be the city of the future, but then always changes its minds about what the future should be. I love the little glimpses you catch of the old dreams, the old ideas of what Utopia should be. I think if you get rid of the, no matter how embarrassing or naive they are, then you lose something essential about the place."I think O'Flynn's greatest talent lies in the way she is able to capture with pinpoint accuracy and humor all the little foibles and interior conversations we all have with ourselves but rarely share. I saw so much of myself in Frank as I read--from his need to be polite causing him to be enmeshed in unwanted relationships to his sense of doubt in his own abilities. Consider this excerpt: The motorway was quiet, but he stayed in the slow lane tucked behind a beaten-up van traveling at fifty. Frank secretly held a strong suspicion that he should not be in charge of a vehicle after dark. On city streets all was fine, but on country lanes or unlit stretches of motorway he was alarmed at the sullen lack of communication between his eyes and his brain. Something had gone wrong between them in the last year or two and now the brain would periodically choose to ignore or willfully misinterpret visual input. The familiar patterns of taillights, road signs and oncoming headlights had broken down into free-form floating abstract projections through which Frank hurtled wide-eyed on leather upholstery. At times he mistook the retreating taillights of the car ahead for headlights coming toward him, at others he would mistake reflections on his side window for vehicles swerving into his lane. His progress along a deserted stretch of motorway was often punctured by sudden braking at phantom hazards on the road ahead.When I read this paragraph, I was smiling to myself as it is a perfect description of my own night driving. (And, if I'm completely honest, occasionally my day-time driving.) I'm forever mistaking leaves blowing across the road for squirrels an