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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good News
I don't envy Catherine O'Flynn having to follow up the success of the brilliant Costa Award-winning What Was Lost and, while I didn't think this one was quite as good, I still really enjoyed it.

The central character is Frank Allcroft, a genial, middle-aged local TV news presenter whose cheesy one-liners have made him a cult figure amongst students. When we...
Published on 28 July 2010 by Denise4891

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not all news is good news
Try as I might I cannot get enthusiastic about Catherine O'Flynn's second novel, and I say try as I might because her first, What Was Lost, was an excellent debut.

The News Where You Are centres on Frank Allcroft, an ageing reporter-cum-presenter on regional television. Frank is a bit of an anachronism in today's world, not entirely out of place and not...
Published 24 months ago by Mick Read


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good News, 28 July 2010
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
I don't envy Catherine O'Flynn having to follow up the success of the brilliant Costa Award-winning What Was Lost and, while I didn't think this one was quite as good, I still really enjoyed it.

The central character is Frank Allcroft, a genial, middle-aged local TV news presenter whose cheesy one-liners have made him a cult figure amongst students. When we meet Frank he seems to be undergoing a minor mid-life crisis, examining the meaning of his existence and his role in various people's lives. He is particularly touched by the regular reports of people who die alone and lay undiscovered for several weeks (usually until the neighbours start complaining about the smell) and he embarks on a mission to make sure they're not forgotten by leaving flowers at their houses, helping to track down relatives and even attending their funerals.

Another central theme of the book is the regeneration of our towns and cities (in this case, Birmingham) and the tearing down of some of the Soviet-style 1960s architecture for which the city is famous, including most of the buildings designed by Frank's architect father. But, as Frank ponders, are the souless apartment blocks and model villages they're being replaced with any better?

Catherine O'Flynn has a wonderful ear for both mundane and surreal dialogue (reminiscent at times of Jonathan Coe and Magnus Mills) and this book is shot through with touches of humour and pathos. I fear it might not be fast moving or action packed enough for some people, but if you enjoyed What Was Lost you'll know what to expect and I hope you won't be disappointed.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Succession planning, 10 July 2010
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
A beautiful book. O'Flynn follows up the themes of her earlier What Was Lost - memory, loss, forgetting - in this story which centres on Frank, a (relatively) contented presenter on a regional news programme in the Midlands.

As he covers the same stories year after year, Frank struggles to keep alive something of his father, once Birmingham's favourite architect but whose buildings are now out of fashion and being torn down as he destroyed their Victorian predecessors.. People can only see what's on the outside - a perception shared by Phil, a former presenter on the programme, who went on to greater things but is afraid time has caught up with him.

These themes are brought together when Phil dies in a hit and run accident, and his old National Service friend, Michael, sitting on a park bench. Dipping back into the past and exploring Frank's relationship with his mother, who seemingly lives to be miserable, and Phil and Michael's past, "The News Where You Are" looks at erasure of the past - of buildings, memories, people, former lives - as both a creative and destructive force, and at memory as the counterpart to erasure. Frank's daughter Mo - who contributed some of the lighter moments in what is at times a very funny book - wants to be preserved as a fossil. Better, says, Frank, to become dust.

Of all the characters in this book - the frightened star, the desperate joke-writer, Frank's driven father - the central one is the city of Birmingham, whose constant drive to erase, recreate and forget itself acts as a metaphor for all the rest. Not a great deal actually happens, at least not on the surface, but you need, as Frank is aware, to look beyond the surface.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Lies Beneath, 8 Sep 2010
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
Having thoroughly enjoyed What Was Lost, Catherine O'Flynn's award winning debut novel, I was really looking forward to this, her latest offering. Again it's a very British book, focussed on urban life in all its monochrome dullness but does it escape the curse of the second novel?

Our anti-hero of sorts is Frank Allcroft, presenter on a regional TV news programme. Frank seems quite accepting of his rather dull job presenting rather dull stories to an indifferent public. Ironically it is his "dullness" and cringeworthy jokes which gain him cult status amongst students - I've never quite understood the attraction of cheesey daytime shows but there's no accounting for taste!

It's possible that some sort of mid-life crisis has triggered Frank's desire to recapture the past, rescue the memories of those who die alone, leaving flowers on the doorsteps of the deceased, attending the funerals of those without relatives or friends. This theme of loss and fruitless efforts to hang on to the past is echoed in the demolition of the buildings which Frank's architect father designed in Birmingham in the 60s - nothing lasts yet we still strive to cling onto the past.

Frank's predecessor, Phil, who has gone to carve a successful career on national tv, tries to avoid the perils of the aging process - permatan, cosmetic surgery - the facade is key. Frank, in his own humdrum way, tries to prove that what lies underneath is more important but with the urban landscape constantly regenerating, female tv presenters discarded at the first inkling of wrinkling, he has a battle on his hands.

Catherine O'Flynn demonstrates once more what a fabulously talented writer she is, imbuing the mundane with emotion and intensity. It's a slow-paced, profound novel, perhaps not as striking as What Was Lost but still a very rewarding read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended...., 13 Oct 2010
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
I have always found something a bit ludicrous about local television news. When the main national newsreader announces "And now the news where you are...." you know that the whole tone of broadcasting changes. Out go the challenging questions to people in power and reports on serious world issues and in come the charity events, the sick children seeking funds for treatment abroad and the pensioner robbed by yobs. And local television news is virtually the same throughout the country - just different hairstyles, different puns and different settees.

I don't think I have read another novel that is based in a local television news room - it's surprising that no-one thought of the idea before. But O'Flynn doesn't belittle her subject but instead treats it with good humour and affection. Her main protagonist is Frank - and unambitious journalist with a terrible line in (purchased) jokes who nonetheless has a substantial local fanbase. His co-presenter Julia is bright but cynical and clearly feels she is meant for better things than local news.

The themes running throughout this novel are loss and change. Frank's father had been the architect of many of Birmingham's brutally modern sixties civic buildings. But now things are changing and one by one they are being demolished - and Frank feels sad about their loss but comforted by his chirpy and optimistic young daughter Mo. Frank also takes it upon himself to attend the funerals of people who have been reported as dying alone - often as the only mourner. He is hardly able to articulate why he does this but feels it is his responsibility - but we see it as evidence of his "goodness".

There is a plot - nothing like as complex as What Was Lost - about the unexplained death of his predecessor. But it is not the plotting that is important in this book. It is the vibrant characters, the great dialogue and a superb evocation of a changing city.

I am a huge fan of Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel What Was Lost so I approached her new book with some trepidation. But I was not disappointed - it really is an excellent novel.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not all news is good news, 25 Sep 2012
This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
Try as I might I cannot get enthusiastic about Catherine O'Flynn's second novel, and I say try as I might because her first, What Was Lost, was an excellent debut.

The News Where You Are centres on Frank Allcroft, an ageing reporter-cum-presenter on regional television. Frank is a bit of an anachronism in today's world, not entirely out of place and not entirely rooted in the past, you just somehow feel that NewsCorp of Fox TV would have put him out to grass some time ago. O'Flynn paints him as something of a cult figure, the unfunniest man in Britain, a poor joke teller who tells poor jokes and is a bit of a joke himself.

Frank doesn't mind, he has more pressing concerns. Phil Smethway for one, his predecessor on the news show and revered as the master who could do no wrong, the man who wrote the regional news presenting handbook. Phil died recently in a hit and run and Frank wants to know how it happened as it doesn't all seem to add up.

Frank also has a thing about his deceased father, a respected architect whose sixties and seventies constructions are now being pulled down in favour of new developments. Frank is trying to salvage what he can and preserve at least one building for posterity.

O'Flynn's subtle story is beautifully told and interwoven with wry humour, Frank's encounters are sharply observed and the conversation pieces draw us in. But Frank doesn't seem to know what he is doing and why and neither did I. I found it all somewhat unfulfilling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fiction in the Space Between Us, 6 Feb 2011
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
As others here have commented, 'The News Where You Are' continues in a similar vein to O'Flynn's debut novel What Was Lost. This is no bad thing. O'Flynn seems able to capture the mundane nature of life, in a surprisingly interesting way. Perhaps as a result of living in and around Birmingham, she seems to be able to derive a great deal of mileage, writing about urban planning. Her perfect rendering of life's small frustrations is a joy to read. Anybody reading her books is sure to find something in them that they identify with.

If the novel has a flaw it is that the story is slight. Nominally about a local news presenter, and his attempts to find out the mysterious death of a former colleague, the plot is thin, and the novel's structure disjointed. Rather than a straight narrative, the novel changes point of view and timeframe between chapters, without much reason. It does make it feel unpolished.

Far from dull though, is O'Flynn's dialogue and observation. The Newsroom, the city, an old peoples home, and above all, the vagaries of ageing, are all vividly and entertainingly portrayed. This is less a novel, than a series of interconnected vignettes, detailing modern life in the Midlands. The concept of space is vital in this novel. The streets and estates that we live in, and the buildings that we use, define who we are. The things we don't say to our friends and loved ones. The gaping void left when someone we love is gone. O'Flynn's use of all these things, lends her light prose an unexpected depth.

'The News Where You Are' is entertaining and easy to read, and is probably essential reading for anybody who has lived in and around Birmingham. Though the plot is thin, this is a novel worthy of attention; it's the best novel to feature urban planning, that you'll read this year...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suffused with melancholy, 5 Feb 2011
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
What Was Lost was one of the best first novels I have read and O'Flynn's second book does not quite match its high standards.
It's about decline, decay, ageing and death: buildings put up by the hero, Frank's, father as cutting-edge architecture are being
demolished; his mother lives in a state of self-willed depression in a care home. Frank spends his spare time looking into the deaths
of those who died alone and unmourned and finds an unexpected link with the unexplained death of his predecessor on the local
TV news show that he fronts.

It's an easy read and has a gentle, often humorous tone, but this is still one of the saddest books I've read in a while.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could almost have been called 'What Was Lost - Part 2', 2 Feb 2011
By 
Ms P. E. Vernon "Verns" (Weston-Super-Mare, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
I loved 'What Was Lost', Catherine O'Flynn's award-winning first novel, and approached her second with some trepidation, since second novels seldom live up to the promise of the first. I needn't have worried - she has added wry humour to her considerable writing talents and 'The News Where You Are' (as it says on the back cover) is 'a pleasurable, satisfying gem of a novel'. Catherine O'Flynn is a cracking good writer; she has a gift for dialogue and, in particular, the internal dialogue of her characters, that I found enchanting.

Frank Allcroft is a regional TV news presenter, with no great ambition other than to be a good husband to his wife Andrea, and a good father to his young daughter, Mo. He is content with the mundanities of his life and has no ambition to progress any further in his career.

The characters are finely drawn and sympathetic - each dealing with their past, present and future in different ways. Do we dread the future, like Phil, Frank's friend and predecessor at the TV station? Do we abandon the past, like Frank's now dead father, who was constantly looking for the next big project?

Frank is drawn to the past, taking Mo around Birmingham to point out the buildings his architect father designed, of which only two remain. His nostalgia is accompanied by a sensibility about people who have died, alone and uncared for, and it is his attempt to track down friends and family of one such man that constitutes the plot (such as it is) of the book.

Frank's search highlights the other main theme of the book - what we leave behind us, whether it is his father's buildings, the fossils on the Jurassic Coast or, as one character memorably phrases it - our absence. Despite this second novel having an entirely different set of characters, it is this bitter-sweet analysis that makes me think an alternative title might have been 'What Was Lost - Part Two'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary lives, ordinary sadness, 27 Jan 2011
By 
Maxine Clarke "Maxine of Petrona" (Kingston upon Thames, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
The second novel (Penguin, 2010) by this extremely talented author is once again set in Birmingham, the scene of her wonderful debut, What Was Lost. The News Where You Are most obviously refers to a local TV news programme and its main presenter, Frank, who is in his 40s. Frank was previously a journalist so has a thorough attitude to his job, spending time researching and contributing to the news stories he presents rather than simply reading them out from a script. He has some years ago taken over the presenting job from Phil, an older man who made it onto mainstream TV and became a household name presenting reality TV and talent shows. At the start of the book, Phil is killed by a hit and run driver, but the novel is not a murder mystery or a crime novel.

Rather, it is a story about how we live our lives. Frank is married to Andrea and they have one daughter, Mo, who is about 12. Frank's mother, Maureen, lives in an assisted living facility and Frank and his family visit her often. Maureen is always in low spirits, refusing to have any possessions in her room and always looking on the dark side of everything. Throughout the book, Frank remembers his childhood - he and his mother got on very well and played many games of imagination and fun together when Frank was very young. His father, however, was remote. It turns out that he was one of the main architects responsible for the post-war regeneration of Birmingham and its environs - a time during which Victorian buildings were ripped down and concrete monstrosities, as well as a plethora of roads, replaced them in the "era of the future". Frank's father was fixated on this future, and totally incapable of relating to his son or wife, who react to this emotional absence in different ways as time goes on.

This sad novel has many themes running through it - Frank's relationships with Phil and his parents, as well as his newsreading, form the main part of the book. As an anchor for a local news station, Frank often has to present stories about people who have died alone, and he's become more interested in these sad victims, often attending their funerals and, in the case of one man during this novel, helping the local council to try to find relatives of the deceased. This quest leads Frank inexorably to some truths about the outwardly successful Phil, and to some recognition in of what the news really is all about. There are some chinks of light and optimism both for Frank's mother and for his own family at the end of the book, but overall this is a poignant novel about ordinary lives, the waste of trends in mass culture (whether media or architecture) and mundane sadnesses - how we live and how we find the enthusiasm for living. I loved this beautifully observed novel, and highly recommend it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all in the voice, 4 Aug 2010
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
I'd buy a telephone directory if it had Catherine O'Flynn's name in it. I think her utterly remarkable, with a quiet, subtle depth, an essential kindness of vision, a concern and sense of character and a wry irony that are more expressive than any of the established London practitioners of today (the ones Gabriel Josipovici so rightly lambasted recently). Her two novels so far have me longing for more from her. For sure, you need to adjust your hearing - or even learn to read! - to get the best out of her. But these two novels of hers are something remarkable in modern fiction. She's that very rare thing, a good, serious, comic novelist. And the motifs and stratagems that are working away under the surface of her work are handled with a sureness of touch that is very impressive to see. If only people like the last reviewer would learn to read properly before they rush to judgement. I'm sure her comments would have hurt this author, and I think she deserves far better than that. In my view, she's producing better work than any other contemporary woman novelist - encourage her, don't damn her, please!
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