Cover Image: Mayflies


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Member Reviews

Tender and evocative are the two words I would use to summarise this story. O'Hagan clearly understands the fragility of friendships as well as how deep the roots of those relationships can run. I enjoyed in particularly reading about the dynamics of male friendships and getting to know these characters as someone who normally reads about female friendships. 

The music and setting were also brilliantly executed and added a real depth to the atmosphere of the story, to understand the story you needed the fabric of the society James and Tully were a part of. The descriptions of the bars, pubs, clubs all vivid and brought back memories of being a student. O'Hagan's writing is absorbing and truthful. Quite different from what I normally go for and an enjoyable read.
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Most of us will have known at least one Tully Dawson - cheeky, charismatic, fearless, loyal, intelligent, compassionate etc - the perfect mirror image of our own squirming adolescent inadequacies and doubts. We crouch in their shadow while they glide through locked doors, charming the world with a wit and wisdom that protects them from inglorious pummellings and cringing embarrassments. Jimmy Collins, the narrator of Mayflies, is well aware that his vision of Tully is wrapped in romantic illusion yet he has a duty to fuel the myth, and help his friend face terminal illness.  
Tully's identification with Arthur Seaton, as played by Albert Finney in the 1960 film of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, prepares us for a tale in two parts - a grimy 80s trip to Manchester in its heyday where a drunken, druggy weekend in a skanky hosteling becomes a legendary heroic odyssey - a touchstone for the enduring friendships as they face the harsh realities of middle aged frailty in the second part. O'Hagan excels in the second part - Jimmy's adherence to a moral code shaped by bedroom Dansette, The Smiths, Joy Division and reruns of the Godfather, clashes with his existence as a successful writer, with a headful of literary references and academic insight. These characters are born from a working class where intelligence and emotions were suppressed - their blossoming is only possible through cultural and emotional release, through music, dance, wildness and the sharing of feelings and dreams, and humour. 
This is an incredibly moving study of friendship. Andrew O'Hagan's skilful handling of the story ensures that by the end of the book we all love Tully as much as Jimmy.
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(The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

This book wrecked me. Reading the last page was difficult, because I was crying. After that, for a couple of hours, I didn't do anything, just stayed there with my thoughts, ruminating on what I had just read, the story, the characters, the bright intuitions of this novel, its moving earnestness.

On the back cover, Carol Ann Duffy writes "Mayflies is one of those novels to press into the hands of friends", and I couldn't agree more, and I will indeed try to have them read it, even if most of my friends are Italian and, while some of them well acquainted with the English language, I'm pretty sure they're not ready for all the Scottish lingo in the book. So yeah, I hope we can see an Italian translation ASAP.

Andrew O'Hagan is one hell of a talented bloke. His tone is sensitive and yet never sentimental, the themes tackled are deep and they always ring true and meaningful. And the characters, man, they're so realistic that you feel you can call them and invite them out for a pint or two or six, So well-crafted, all of them, even the minor ones.

I'm far from being Scottish, and yet I felt the places where this novel is set were my places, the groups of friends was my group of friends, their social commentary was my social commentary. And yes, I think I have a Tully in my life, and I'll make sure he knows it.

I give this every star all of them. For fuck's sake, I'd give them even more if I could.
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This was just lovely, tender and evocative, a story of a friendship I’ll never have. While I liked the first part for the ‘80s references (I’ve stated this before and I’ll do it again if necessary: 1986 was a perfect year, with respect to music and film), and loved its dynamics and urgency, I had problems distinguishing between the guys. Apart from Tully and Jimmy, I couldn’t tell who’s who, I can’t even remember their names, and it’s such a pity, because books focused on groups of friends are one of my favourite things to read.

The second part, though a bit too sentimental at the beginning, grew on me little by little. It makes you face things you might think are too far or too unlikely to happen to you, and I have to admit, I wept a couple of times. And deep down in my heart, I hope they played "The Whole of the Moon" at Tully and Anna's wedding.

This book is filled to the brim with music, film and books references. If you’re a sucker for them, it might be for you. Also, someone should turn it into a film. Oh, and now I’m slightly obsessed with the illustrations from "Ephemeri vita", and I need to browse a copy asap.

Thanks to Faber & Faber for a copy via NetGalley.
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1986 and James and Tully are two Glasgow boys who bond over music. Following an epic weekend in which they travel to Manchester to go to a series of gigs the boys vow to change their lives from the dead end council housing and manual jobs of their fathers.  30 years later and Tully calls James to tell him some news, bad news.  Friendships like these never fade and the grown men go into an uncertain future together
At times this book dragged and then at other times it soared.  I loved the 1980s Manchester section and felt the trajectory towards the end recaptured that joie de vivre but the missing central part bugged me too much!
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Tender, evocative and expertly narrated, one part of Mayflies deals with growing up in Scotland in the 1980s while the other, assisting with the death (euthanasia) of a terminal ill dear friend. Andrew O'Hagan's novel is as much a tribute to the character Tully, who is at the heart of the book, as it is a character study and farewell to a friend who, "decides to make death proud." O'Hagan's narration deals with the complex dynamics and pressures involved in deciding one's own fate - Tully entrusts the responsibility of assisted dying to Jimmy to the despair of his own wife Anna. Immensely moving, yet without an ounce of pathos or sentimentality, Mayflies is a brilliantly told novel large portions of which are filled with wonderfully moving dialogues.
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3.5, rounded slightly down. This was a deeply moving autobiographical novel about male friendship that stayed on the right side of mawkishness, watching the lifelong relationship between James and Tully as they catapult from their early twenties into their early fifties. 

Having loved all of the same 1980s bands as this gang of working-class Scottish lads, I was vicariously thrilled by the novel's first half, which is a (occasionally repetitious) minute-by-minute account their booze-, drug-, and adrenaline-fueled road trip to a music festival in Manchester, where they lurk in record shops, see an amazing live show by The Smiths, and talk their way into the Hacienda club. Beyond the duo of James and Tully, the other guys they hang out with are undifferentiated, and their rants about socialism, bands, movies, and Top Three Lists felt interchangeable. 

The second half, set in 2017, is a more somber affair (no spoilers here), but it will definitely make you call up your old college friends to reconnect, and get a bit misty. But I'm unsure whether O'Hagan is sufficiently self-aware to see through the glib and joking banter of his characters as barriers to (or substitutes for?) masculine emotional intimacy, since so much of this novel is fueled by the same hyper-verbal energy at the level of first-person narration. 

Especially in the novel's final scenes, as the main duo and their long-suffering wives eat and drink their way across Zurich for one last evening together, I found Tully's forced bonhomie and gallows humor to be a performance of reality-avoidance that just didn't ring true emotionally for me. Maybe O'Hagan is just working too close to the material of his own life, and romanticizing and mythologizing his own past, to see himself, or his best mate, clearly.
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Mayflies tells the story of a lifelong friendship between two Scottish lads. It focusses on two specific time periods in their friendship. The first part is set in 1986 when they are young and have their whole life ahead of them. The second part is set in 2017 when one of them has received bad news and needs a favour.

Tully Dawson is a charismatic fellow who always seems to be at the centre of everything and can charm everyone he meets. Jimmy (Noodles) is the quieter friend who loves books. Both are from working class families and are dealing with family issues, as well as growing up in the political and economic climate of 1980’s Scotland. Jimmy is out looking for a job but is conflicted about whether he should continue at school and go beyond his working class upbringing.

The first part of Mayflies is filled with youthful energy and leads up to a big weekend in Manchester for Tully, Noodles and their mates when they go to a concert. This is the one weekend that will always remind them of their youth. The second part of Mayflies continues the friendship theme, but at that point, they are more settled and are dealing with their adult life, relationships, and parents getting older. The friendship of Tully and Jimmy remains strong over the years and they know that the other will always be there for them.

My favourite thing about Andrew O’Hagan’s writing is how he captures the language of the Scottish people and also the Scottish cultural references. So many times when reading this book, I was reminded of phrases that my Glaswegian parents, grandparents and cousins have used. I enjoyed this story  of male friendship and it was a very quick-read for me. I will definitely read more of Andrew O’Hagan’s writing.

Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. #Mayflies #NetGalley
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I really wanted to enjoy this book, having loved the Manchester music scheme of the mid/late 80s BUT I just could not identify with the characters. I found the group of friends really annoying. Had I seen a similar group in the 80s, I would have given them a wide berth and hoped not to bump into them at a venue.

I didn't even make it as far as the second half of the book. It seemed pointless, given the theme of the book hinges on friendship and I couldn't find endearing qualities in either of them!
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Mayflies is a great, moving read about friendships, the things that bring us together (in this case, music), and the many directions that life takes. Set over two timeframes, the books succeeds in creating a sense of nostalgia about the 80s and the music scene from that time.

It's a beautiful story of a friendship, portrayed and captured with a lot of depth and heart, especially in the second part of the book. On the whole, it's a book that I enjoyed reading over a slow, lazy weekend.
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'Manchester was a byword for who we all were together, who Tully was in particular'.

Told in two sections, Mayflies tells the story of two men: James and Tully. In 1986, they leave their small Scottish town for one weekend of debauchery in Manchester, fuelled by alcohol, drugs, and music. Many years later, in 2017, their friendship is still strong; but James still isn't expecting the phone call from Tully, drawing on an old favour and making James question what friendship and love truly mean.

The two time periods in which Mayflies is set were brilliantly written, and contrast fantastically well. The first section is gritty, filled with the music and atmosphere of the time. 'Evocative' and 'atmospheric' feel like over-used words, but they really sum up the first half of the novel. I felt like I was there, in Manchester, worshipping The Smiths; it made me nostalgic for a time I never experienced. Similarly, the second section felt wonderfully modern, infused with the anxieties and concerns of the UK in recent years, without feeling cliched or over-done. I saw this again in the descriptions of Sicily and Switzerland- each place was described so well, I felt like I was there.

A further stand-out feature in relation to the novel being told in two sections is that the time-frame is vastly different. 1986 takes up near enough half the book, but covers a weekend; the latter section spans over a year. Although these sound conflicting, and like they might get muddled or feel too contrasting, this wasn't the case at all. I chose the quote this review started with because I think it encapsulates the feeling of the book so well; Manchester is a defining, and explaining, time for all the boys, but especially Tully. Therefore, it becomes the perfect narrative with which to enter the second half of the book. The second half, then, is slower- but also more urgent.

Another absolutely stand-out feature of this novel, and one that really adds to the strong sense of context, is the wide use of intertextuality. I found that I felt compelled to note down a million and one songs, paintings, things to look up; knowing implicitly that they would give me the same feeling as the novel did, that every one was carefully selected. Even though half of the references were lost on me (I hate to say it, but 1986 was over a decade before my time!), this didn't effect my enjoyment of the book at all, and if anything probably added to it. It was discovering a whole new world, one familiar yet completely strange.

There were some issues; I got that the homophobia in the first section was a way to show the time and context, and in that way it didn't feel offensive. However, there were comments in the latter part- particularly about Prince- that felt more jarring. There were also a great number of characters, each with nicknames and Christian names used interchangeably, and I got lost over who was who, especially when their escapades were referred to in the later years. At times it also felt like the plot was rushing past me a bit, and some of the finer points were lost in that I think. I didn't realise, for example, how deep Cloggs and Hoggs (I think those are the right names?!) animosity ran until later. In other ways, this feeling of rushing really worked. The weekend in Manchester felt harried and rushed, just like it likely did in real life. I think also racism was paid a lip service that 'did the job' without really scratching the surface; it felt a little like a tickbox, or like a way of showing Tully to be a good character, which is pretty problematic.

I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that Tully is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and that he entrusts James with the responsibility to help him die the death he chooses (at least, I hope it's not much of a spoiler! I inferred it from the blurb anyway!). Mayflies examines death the same way it examines everything else: unflinchingly, but with a certain amount of humour. There was a ridiculousness to it that helped lighten what could have been a very sombre second half, and that spoke to Tully's wonderful characterisation. I really liked the way that James talked about Tully's dying as being a dying of them all, of their childhood. Again, brilliantly described, leading to something very moving and brimming with accessible empathy. 

I know there are lots of conflicting and important viewpoints on euthanasia; however, I think Mayflies did a good job of looking at a number of them, if not all. There was so much conflict, between and within the characters, and this really came across. Up until the end, I wasn't entirely sure how it would turn out, even as I completely knew.

Overall, this is a great book- at times both slow and rushed, but always worth sticking with. Incredibly moving, and one of the most atmospheric and evocative novels of the year.
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This novel at its core is about the unyielding friendship between two men, Tully and James, and is split into two parts taking place in Scotland in 1986 and 2017. I found this story to be interesting and even compelling, however I felt like the first part dragged a bit, and the second part felt rushed. 

The first half of the story was energized, fast-paced, and urgent as O'Hagan portrays a friendship between teenage boys, in the prime of their lives, struggling to understand what the future will hold for them. I enjoyed the depth in which this friendship was developed, but as an American reader, I found myself a bit overloaded with references to Thatcherism and 80s music. At the same time, I felt like both main characters were authentic and their friendship real, and I was fully invested in their relationship. 

I enjoyed the second half of the story more than the first, as both Tully and James are adults dealing with serious, real life issues. I sort of wish that O'Hagan had spent more time on this half of the book versus the first, but I do appreciate the history that is created between Tully and James by first seeing them as young men. 

Overall, I was impressed by O'Hagan's writing (this is the first novel I've read by him), and enjoyed the story, but felt that the pacing could have been adjusted to focus on the second half even more. 

A huge thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy.
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I had high hopes for this novel but unfortunately I really couldn’t get on with it The group of guys it centred on were very unrelatable and therefore quite annoying to me and as a result the narrative often when over my head. I lost focus constantly because of the many pop-culture references from before my time that seem to be included in every other sentence. 

This novel may be more suited to someone familiar with the music scene in the 80’s who yearns for the nostalgia of the time, as i’m sure it would be much more appreciated!
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I read this book with the Smith's "There's a light that never goes out" in my mind" and thinking that it should come with a playlist listing the song that are in the plot.
I could summarize my review quoting the Smiths: And if a double-decker bus/ Crashes into us/ To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die
This book is the double decker that crashed into me and cause a lot of different emotions like nostalgia, sadness, fun,.
The first part was a sort of "Oh to be twenty again! ". I didn't live in UK but I listened to the same music the characters do. It was like travelling back in time and reliving those moments, what we said and what we loved.
The second is the now when we start to face our mortality and what it could mean losing a friend to a serious illness. I couldn't help thinking of Joy Division's Atmosphere: Walk in silence/don't walk way in silence.
I read it in one sitting never being able to putting, never feeling tired and never wanting this book to end.
It's the first book I read by this author and I think I will read all the other because I loved the great style of writing and storytelling, the excellent character development and how well he can make you feel the character's emotion.
It was a very intense and complex reading experience that I won't to feel again.
I strongly recommend it because everyone should be able to live that richness.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Mayflies, a coming pf age story that was unforgettable. 
Tully Dawson, the friend everyone has, the friend who defines your summer in 1986. James creates a brilliant friendship with Tully based on films, music and teenage rebel spirit and a weekend away in Manchester for these Glasgow boys.
In 2017, London, James, both older and quite receives a message from Tully that proves to be devastating, to see him through his final months. 
This book is both sensitive and compassionate but not sentimental. A great portrayal of friendship set over the different time periods. It examined how the early bonds of friendship, the same class and ideals can lead to a strong unbreakable bond detailing life, love and loss.
This book was funny in places and although the topic hard,  it never felt that clay reading it. The characters are authentic and a great balance between humour and the realities of life. 
I read the second half with a lump in my throat, this book. Is memorable. Published today! 
Thankyou @netgalley and @faberbooks for this #gifted copy to review.
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Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan took me right out of my DC row home and threw me right into 1986, in the midst of a group of young men in Scotland just exploding with energy and the rebellion of punk. I felt that in order to truly get into the mood, I just had to listen to The Smiths and The Cure and anything of that moody, angsty, ilk, much beloved by the characters we meet in the novel. 

Set in Glasgow, the first half of the book feels like a whirlwind. It captures just a weekend in which a group of childhood friends go to Manchester via bus for a music festival. With no plans or place to stay, and many of them without even a change of clothes with them, they’re buffeted by their radical beliefs, and fueled by the chance to see their god Morrissey live (along with plenty of drugs and alcohol). 

Narrated by James, the quiet, thoughtful, and bookish one of the group, we meet a cast of characters drawn together by their love of music and the ideations of punk itself. But the focus is often his best friend, Tully - the life of the party. His infectious energy is often the focus of James’ and every one else in the room’s attention. The kind of guy who can charm his way into a concert without a ticket and break up a near bar room brawl by jumping on a table and singing. The second half of the book is set thirty years later, when many of the had men fallen out of touch, but James and Tully retained their close friendship. When Tully confides devastating news to James, he must find a way to help Tully along, at the risk of ruining the lives of many around them. 

I’ll be honest, Mayflies nearly lost me there at the beginning of the book. I’m not sure if it was the Scots accent or the references I didn’t quite all get - from references to British politics, or Marxism, or just musical references I missed - I felt a little out of sorts. But once I let that go (and did some Googling), I found it to be thoroughly engaging and saw myself and my friends reflecting in some of the moments throughout. The second half of the book broke my heart and it tells such an important story of what it means to stand by a friend and how impossible a task it can be to help fulfill last wishes. 

When the two halves came together, it felt like a slow coming of age. Where the first half was fast-paced and freewheeling, the second half is more measured, written in a more mature voice and pace. We see the beginning of it as these young energized men are desperately trying to find themselves and find where they might fit in the world, and then the end of it as they accept who they are and where they’ve found themselves. Tully’s character shines bright throughout but he wasn’t without his flaws and where he may have seemed charming as a 18 or 19 year old, he at times came across as brutally stubborn as a middle aged man, often to the detriment of his relationships. 

James and Tully’s friendship is realistic and at the same time feels like the ultimate friendship - though I found myself often siding with their wives throughout. It begs the question, how far would you go to help your friend, even if it breaks your heart?
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Andrew O'Hagan is undoubtedly a gifted writer. He has a knack of depicting ordinary lives in a direct and honest way. Mayflies is about friendship, in particular male friendship. His protagonist James is a working class boy from the North Ayrshire new town of Irvine, developed like East Kilbride and Cumbernauld, to take the overspill from Glasgow's slums. James has a friend Tully, someone to whom he is intensely loyal and who is loyal to him in return. In fact Tully and his family replace to some extent James' own family. 

The first half of this novel revolves around a trip to a music festival in Manchester made in 1986 by Tully, James and three other friends. I found this much more difficult to engage with than the second part. I found the endless references to music and films a little tedious to be honest and it reminded me of nights out in male company where they'd show off to each other about their knowledge of a particular group or book or film, each trying to outdo the other. Add to this lots of alcohol and drugs and although very well written, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

The second half more than makes up for this. We fast forward thirty one years. Tully has terminal cancer and he knows what to do about it and who's going to help. It deals with issues of life and death with compassion and tenderness and will stay with me for a long time. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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This is a story of friendship, and how far a person will go to honor that friendship. 

Jimmy and Tully’s story starts in 1986.  They are teens in Thatcher’s Glasgow, and on their way to Manchester for a music festival. The second part of the novel takes place in 2017. Tully has been diagnosed with cancer, and has little time left. He calls upon Jimmy to help him with his final wishes, as Tully’s girlfriend opposes them. They have remained close for all these years, and Jimmy agrees, though he’s not happy about it. 

Tully is a larger than life character in Jimmy’s eyes. As a teen, he jumped on Morrisey’s limo, and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind to anyone. Though he has mellowed some over the years, eg: teaching English Lit, he still has that big personality. Saying goodbye will be difficult. 

The book was well written. The characters are formed, and they grow into responsible adults, though they still have fun. It was easy to relate to them as adults. It was easy to relate to them as teens, too, since I was a teen in 1986, and liked a lot of the same music. The politics in the first part went way over my head, but that’s because I was raised in the US. 

The second part of this novel really shined for me. The mundane day to day is interrupted by a cataclysmic diagnosis, and it is dealt with realistically. But the emotions were big. It was easy to sympathize with all the characters, their dreams and their responsibilities. 

This was a well done novel, that I will remember for a long time. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. 

4 stars
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This was a very character led book. We follow a bunch of friends back in the late 80s when they skipped Glasgow to head to Manchester for a music festival full weekend. Led by Tully, we mainly focus on our MC James as they hit the heady city lights. Fast forward to the present in 2017 and they have mostly gone their separate ways, some keeping touch, others falling by the wayside. Tully and James have always remained tight though so it is to James that Tully spills his devastating news and also spells out what he wants him to do next.
This book is more about the characters than the actual story if you get what I mean. It's an example of friendship. Of life and love and loss and all things in between. The past sections evoke memories of exactly what was going on in the 80s. The politics, the music, films, and the culture scene of the time. The season of festivals and the things that go hand in hand with that. Bonds are formed that will never die and it's the bond between Tully and James that leads to what happens next. All of which is handled most sensitively, given the subject matter.
I loved my trip back in time. I was a child of the 80s and reading this book really did take me back. It was so authentically crafted and, aside from the story being told, I went through my own reminiscences of what was a happy time for me too.
Being a character driven novel, the characters have to be strong enough to hold the story and they absolutely do. I've already mentioned the two MCs but the rest of the cast, especially their other halves, are just as well described and all play their parts very well. It was interesting to see how the youths of their pasts turned into the adults they became.
All in all, a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, all wrapped up in a very emotive story in the present day. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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Let me begin this review by saying that ‘Mayflies’ is the first novel in a long time that has truly broken my heart. Andrew O’Hagan has written a beautiful, compassionate, witty story of love, loss, friendship, and life. He’s found the perfect balance of humour and emotion, neither of which take over the other. Just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby- you’ll need them! 
‘Mayflies’ is split into two parts; the first is set during the summer of 1986, and the latter takes place 30 years later. In all honesty, I did initially struggle to get to grips with ‘Mayflies’. But, after a couple of chapters, I was well and truly won over by Tully’s charisma, the endless musical references, and the overall vibe of 1986 Manchester. The first section of the novel, in hindsight, was my favourite part of the novel; I could have read an entire book dedicated to the escapades of Tully and James during that one weekend in Manchester. O’Hagan really brought the era to life with tons of references to bands (one scene in particular, featuring The Smiths, was a highlight for me) and the slang the characters used. The second half of the novel was a lot calmer, a lot more restrained, though still peppered with references to James and Tully’s youth. The dramatic change in tone should have been jarring but it wasn’t; it felt like a natural progression, and suited the plot perfectly. 
O’Hagan did an incredible job at clearly differentiating between the first and second part of the novel, largely through the development of James and Tully. The characterisation of the two men was definitely a huge part of what made ‘Mayflies’ so enjoyable, and so realistic. The first half of the novel really sets the scene for the friendship between James and Tully as they progress into adults. O’Hagan makes youth a focal point of the first part, reminding readers of any age how it feels to be reckless and free. And yet, despite this devil-may-care attitude, O’Hagan’s characters are capable of serious reflections, with frequent conversations about Thatcher’s Britain, the treatment of miners during the 80’s, and general issues effecting the working classes during that period. Those contemplations simply become extended in the latter half, when James and Tully have more measured mediations on a range of topics, from life and death to love and love, and everything in between. 
At its core, ‘Mayflies’ is an ode to friendship. It’s rare to find a novel that puts such a focus on male friendship, but O’Hagan does it beautifully. His depiction of the relationship between James and Tully blew me away; O’Hagan dealt with a lot of very real emotions, a lot of which most authors would not include in a male friendship, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with such a nuanced portrayal since ‘A Little Life’. It was refreshing, to say the least, to see a male friendship full of love and loyalty, since most lack any real emotion or intimacy. 
‘Mayflies’ is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It made me laugh, it made me cry (weep is probably a more accurate word) and it made me listen to a lot of 80s music. But, most of all, ‘Mayflies’ made me realise that some friendships will shape your entire life, and should never be taken for granted.
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