02 September 2020, The Tablet

End game


(FABER & FABER, 288 PP, £14.99)
Tablet bookshop price £13.49 • tel 020 7799 4064

How should you respond when your best friend asks you to help him die? This is the dilemma facing Jimmy Collins, the narrator of Andrew O’Hagan’s ambitious new novel. Three decades of mutual loyalty persuade him to say yes; but as the moment draws near, his inner conflict becomes more and more intense.

If this sounds like a grim premise for a book, the opening chapters are anything but. The year is 1986, and as Jimmy prepares to start university, he and five Ayrshire friends head to Manchester for a weekend of punk music, drink, drugs and – they hope – sex. The fulcrum of the party is Tully, a warm, wisecracking lathe turner who has taken the parentless Jimmy under his wing. Together they doss on strangers’ floors, glimpse their hero Morrissey and dance ecstatically at the Hacienda club. It is the highlight of their young lives: a hedonistic excursion none will forget.

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