Andrew O’Hagan: Mayflies


Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life.

In the summer of 1986, James and Tully ignite a friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over, they rush towards a magical weekend of youthful excess in Manchester played out against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded. And there a vow is made: to go at life differently.

Thirty years on, the phone rings. Tully has news.


I was drawn to this book by the TV series, which looks interesting and has a good cast, but as I’m someone who likes to read the book first, I’m yet to watch it. I don’t think Mayflies is a novel I would have picked up without a nudge, but I am so glad I did. Andrew O’Hagan’s writing is wonderful and he was able to make me feel emotions with such amazing depth. 

The main characters are Jimmy and Tully, who are brilliantly drawn characters in their own right, but they are also surrounded by a group of friends, who are depicted so well it is impossible not to imagine what it would be like to spend time with them. I immediately became invested in their lives and I wanted to know what the future would hold for them. 

The first half of the novel is set in 1986, and although this is (slightly) before my time, I was transported straight there. The author does a fantastic job of setting the scene in terms of politics and culture, and what life was like for people who were a similar age to the characters at that time with humour and compassion. 

The second half of the novel is set in 2017. It is difficult to review this section without giving anything away, but the subject matter is particularly emotional. The author handles it so well, not shying away from it but not being insensitive and ensuring the humour between the characters is still present. The writing is so touching that it is impossible not to feel deep sympathy for all the characters and I will be thinking about them for a long time to come. 

I listened to the audio version of Mayflies, which is read by the author and this made the story feel incredibly authentic. 

Mayflies is available from Amazon.

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