A memoir that is by turns heart-breaking and hilarious, O Brother evokes a working-class childhood of the 1970s and 80s and tries to answer the questions of guilt, culpability and regret that often haunt the survivors of suicide
AN INSTANT SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE GORDON BURNS PRIZE
A WATERSTONES BEST BOOK OF 2023
AN iNEWS BEST BOOK TO GIFT
John Niven’s little brother Gary was fearless, popular, stubborn, handsome, hilarious and sometimes terrifying. In 2010, after years of chaotic struggle against the world, he took his own life at the age of 42.
Hoping for the best while often witnessing the worst, John, his younger sister Linda and their mother, Jeanette, saw the darkest fears they had for Gary played out in drug deals, prison and bankruptcy. While his life spiralled downward and the love the Nivens’ shared was tested to its limit, John drifted into his own trouble in the music industry, a world where excess was often a marker of success.
Tracking the lives of two brothers in changing times – from illicit cans of lager in 70s sitting rooms to ecstasy in 90s raves – O Brother is a tender, affecting and often uproariously funny story. It is about the bonds of family and how we try to keep the finest of those we lose alive. It is about black sheep and what it takes to break the ties that bind. Fundamentally it is about how families survive suicide, ‘that last cry, from the saddest outpost.’
“Vivid, visceral, brilliantly funny in places, dispensing sharp punches to the gut in others … [O Brother] made me sob more than once, and I suspect it will do the same to you”
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“Riotous and yet bracingly moving … Often exuberant, laugh-out-loud funny, touching, sad and rueful”
“Heartbreaking, and told with tenderness and honesty … The writing is first rate, without announcing how good it is. I can’t recommend it strongly enough”
“An honest epitaph for a troubled soul, tender and sentimental, but shot through with anger and regret for the things left unsaid”
“Oh my God, this book! O Brother feels like war-level reportage from the nuclear-blast that suicide inflicts on a family. [… ] A book whose genuine importance is only equaled by its sheer, visceral, compulsive readability”
John Niven is the author of eleven books, including Kill Your Friends, The Second Coming and Straight White Male. As a screenwriter his credits include The Trip, Kill Your Friends and How to Build a Girl. O Brother is his first non-fiction book.