Sunday, December 1, 2013

Life Elsewhere: Mr. Lynch’s Holiday

Catherine O’Flynn’s Mr. Lynch’s Holiday is a quiet, enjoyable novel that dissects contemporary migrations and alienation, offering up the story of Eamonn, a lonely, lost, barely employed expat man who lives in Spain, whose father, Dermot, a retired bus driver, comes to visit from England. It wasn’t so much the plot or backstories that mattered to me in Mr. Lynch’s Holiday—Eamonn’s wife, for example, left him to return to England and Dermot came to England from Ireland as a young man—as O’Flynn’s small touches, things like Skype as replacement human contact (some people fall asleep by the screen!) and the ghostly feel, predatory neighbors, and stray cats of Eamonn’s underpopulated coastal Spanish town.

O’Flynn works in, to good effect, lots of quiet and sad humor: Dermot, for example, never got over nouvelle cuisine all those years ago, and Eamonn ponders “El Cóndor Pasa,” specifically “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail” and the use of panpipes, while drunk at a party. Mr. Lynch’s Holiday is gentle, spare, and occasionally sharp—a very decent combination—but also a bit predictable, particularly in the outcome of Dermot’s visit and a “one year later” epilogue that usurps a perfectly good (and, I thought, thoroughly appropriate) open-ended finish.

Disclaimers: I received a review copy of Mr. Lynch’s Holiday from publisher Henry Holt, thank you very much!

Up Next: Donald Antrim’s The Hundred Brothers.

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