Catherine O’Flynn’s third novel, Mr Lynch’s Holiday, concerns a father and son, Dermot and Eamonn respectively. Eamonn upped sticks with his girlfriend Laura and moved to Spain, specifically an exciting out of the way development on the coast called Lomaverde; only the economy being what it is, the development stalled, the builders threw down their tools and Eamonn and Laura found themselves surrounded by slightly embittered retirees, potentially threatening locals and hordes of cats. When Eamonn’s dad, the recently widowed Dermot, lands unexpectedly, Eamonn is in something of a trough – Laura has left him, he has been neglecting his job (teaching Spaniards English online) and anything aside from lying in bed, wallowing in self-pity doesn’t really appeal.
What follows is a gentle comedy – what you might describe as wry comedy in that it feels imbued by equally gentle sadness: Dermot coming to be known to the other residents of Lomaverde, father and son gently sparring (one of the best scenes in the novel occurs when the residents call a meeting and both father and son attempt to edge out of it, only to push each other in), life lived considered and reflected upon (as it sometimes is on a holiday) amidst flashbacks to earlier points in both Dermot and Eamonn’s past (not all of which, it should be said, feel completely pertinent, but their presence in the novel helps maintain the gentleness of pace).
In some respects, not a huge amount happens in My Lynch’s Holiday. Father and son talk a bit, walk a bit, attend a barbecue, go for a swim. Unlike O’Flynn’s debut, What was Lost, where tragedy remained hard and current years after the fact, Mr Lynch’s Holidays concerns people who have dealt with tragedy, absorbed tragedy, know that tragedy is a part of life, get on with things nevertheless. Which isn’t to say that the pain in Mr Lynch’s Holiday isn’t acute (a Facebook status pierces Eamonn and the sting leaps from the page – we have all of us, at some point, felt the pang of a former loved one going about their new life sans you) and more to say that the characters are quick to resort to whatever coping technique gets them through the day.
As with both of her previous books, there is a hint of Ballard present (Lomaverde could be any of Ballard’s malls or enclosures) but O’Flynn isn’t setting out to write a Ballardian novel. This is a novel about people, albeit people in a slightly alien Ballardian setting. The misjudged cover (which looks like a deckchair and arguably prepares you for a jolly romp which the book is not) and the Daily Mail quote (which tells us O’Flynn is ‘a comic genius’) don’t entirely do the book a good service but those things aside, O’Flynn has written another very fine novel. The only criticism this reader would level at the novel is that the time spent detailing the ways in which Lomaverde is coming apart at the seams appears reversed at the climax thanks to a bit of grouting in the nearest swimming pool – but this is a minor point.
Mr Lynch’s Holiday won’t be for everyone – and may attract criticism from readers who want O’Flynn to show her teeth more (she remains a writer able to surprise with a flash of vicious insight – check out her fine short story ‘Snare, Girl’ from The Empty Page collection to see what I mean) – but not every novel has to snap and crack like an alligator in a bowl of cereal. It’s fine for some books to go about their business provided the business is done well, and O’Flynn does the business well. What she has to say feels real and true, the resolution she attains feels honest and Mr Lynch’s Holiday even manages a happy ending that doesn’t feel tacked on. All told, I came away from Mr Lynch’s Holiday a little happier than I went in and for that I am grateful.
Any Cop?: She may not be a comic genius (although she is amusing, make no mistake about that), but O’Flynn is certainly one of the writers we continue to take real pleasure in watching develop. Mr Lynch’s Holiday is a recommended read.