top of page

An instant hit epic giving a bang up to date ‘state of the nation’ novel set in post pandemic London.

- best book club reads - 





Den scores




641 pages

‘Caledonian Road’ by Andrew O’Hagan is an instant hit epic giving a bang up to date ‘state of the nation’ novel set in post pandemic London. With over 600 pages the Den was grateful for the glossary of characters (over 50!) although O’Hagan’s direct narrative and short chapters make it a relative breeze for readers to follow.

The novel pivots around the world of respected art historian and UCL academic, Professor Campbell Flynn who finds himself regretting a loan from a friend whose business and public reputation is being questioned. This starts off as a niggling worry but one that he manages to put off with a new book ‘Why Men Sleep in their Cars’. Campbell believes that this book, in the money spinning self help genre, could be ghosted for a celebrity, successfully sold as a bestseller and by doing so remove his own personal money worries.

The reader is introduced to Campbell’s friend who provided the loan, Sir William Byre and here the web of connections and corruption begin as we meet his privileged family and friends who have links to wealthy Russian oligarchs whose offspring are diverting sanctioned funds into a criminal underbelly. As a slice of London life there is an addictive ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ storyline that has echoes of Guy Ritchie’s Netflix series ‘The Gentleman’ and Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ which we are eager to follow. Running in tandem with Campbell's worries, he has become friendly with one of his pupils Milo Mangasha who lives nearby on the Caledonian Road. With this new friendship, Campbell is enjoying the opportunity to be challenged and learn from his student about social justice, the dark web, crypto currency and the general ‘word on the street’. But he is unaware that Milo and his local girlfriend Gosia have their own plans in mind for him. Whilst Gosia's Polish roots uphold good family traditions at home and in business, her brother has branched out into haulage and transportation which we discover is code for a darker criminal underworld. At the same time, Campbell is experiencing heightened tensions with his sitting tenant, Mrs Voyles, who is occupying the basement flat in his London home.

Campbell himself has working class Glaswegian roots who has bettered himself through education. He is now part of a successful Islington power couple whose wife is a professional therapist from a titled family with privileged children who are exceeding the fame of their own parents. The reader reflects on Campbell’s achievements and his children’s as the story unfolds. The web of interconnecting spin offs from this family make it is an addictive read and we feel Campbell’s anxiety begin to escalate, recognising he is being haunted by his bad judgments and hunted by his frenemies.

The novel touches on lots of modern threads of discussion that include hypocrisy within the world of academia, the arts, business and public life as well corruption that runs through the social strata of metropolitan London. Family dynamics are also probed, presenting a growing chasm in values and ambitions amongst the generations. Love or hate the length of this novel, ‘Caledonian Road’ promises to offer lots of discussion in book club as well as plenty of potential to be snapped up for our screens. The Den is keen, are you?!

- for people who love books - 

bottom of page