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#Bookreview HOLDING by Graham Norton (@grahnort) Not a genre novel but an interesting story #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

I keep trying to catch up on recent reviews, and here I bring you one that I must confess I was curious about because of the writer.

Holding by Graham Norton
Holding by Graham Norton

Holding by Graham Norton  (Author) 

It’s funny and wonderfully perceptive’ Wendy Holden

‘Poised and perceptive’ the Sunday Times

‘It is beautiful and yet devastatingly sad’ Daily Express

‘A considerable achievement … one of the more authentic debuts I’ve read in recent years … in such an understated manner, eschewing linguistic eccentricity … in favour of genuine characters and tender feeling…this is a fine novel.’ John Boyne, Irish Times

‘Deeply accomplished…brilliantly observed’ Good Housekeeping

‘An undercurrent of black comedy accompanies the ripples that ensue – but with a pathos that makes this deftly plotted story as moving as it is compelling.’ Sunday Mirror

‘Strenuously charming…surprisingly tender’ Metro 

‘Heartwarming and observant’ Stylist

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

 

A Note From the Publisher

HOLDING is not the novel I planned to write, at least, not at first. But following the old adage to write about what you know, Ireland seemed a good place to start, especially rural Ireland. I did have in mind a cast of characters living in and around a small village where their lives would reflect the priorities and concerns – land, marriage, religion – that are so present in that area still.

I found as I wrote more about the characters of Duneen that each of them had in some way become suspended in time – due to grief, due to unhappiness, due to fear of failure – and that they were all holding on to their own secrets.

I am hugely excited that HOLDING is now heading out into the world, and would love to hear what you think. Please do let me know on Twitter@Grahnort using the hashtag #readholding. I will be watching!

 

See all 6 formats and editions

 

 

 

 

Not a genre novel but an interesting story

Thanks to Net Galley and to Hodder & Stoughton for offering me a free copy of this novel.

I have several confessions to make. Yes, I know who Graham Norton is, although I don’t watch his television programme often, and I don’t follow Eurovision (even when Sir Terry Wogan hosted the UK version of Eurovision, and I was a big fan of his, I didn’t watch it), although I sometimes catch bits of his radio programme on Radio 2. So, although I suppose I had expectations, they can’t compare to other people’s.

I haven’t read any of his autobiographical books, so I didn’t have anything to compare this novel to, other than the many books I read by other authors.

I must also confess that I had a look at other reviews before writing mine and I will mention them, although not in detail.

This novel is in many ways the Irish equivalent (if there is such a thing) of the small town thrillers that are very common in the US. We have mysteries, we have a dark underbelly (well, not quite so dark), we have secrets, and we have many people whose lives are not as they appear to be. The book is listed under General Fiction and Mystery (Crime, Thriller) but I’m not sure how well it fits in the second one, at least stylistically, not so much from the story point of view.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of quite a few of the characters in the novel. If one had to choose a protagonist, perhaps it would be P.J. Collins the large Sergeant who lives alone and always expects people to laugh at him because of his weight. When bones are unearthed at a local building site, suddenly some excitement comes into his life. Because the owner of the farm where the bones are found left to never return many years back, the suspicion is he might be the one buried there, and suddenly two women who had fought over him start thinking about him again. Of course, due to the nature of the crime, police officers from Cork come to take charge and there is general disruption. And of course, things get complicated.

I didn’t find it difficult to follow the different points of view as they tend to be clearly demarcated and the characters are very different, although I thought that in the last chapter before the epilogue the switches were a bit fast and not so well demarcated, and some people might not enjoy the head-hopping.

I’ve noticed that several of the reviews commented that the portrayal of small town Ireland seemed timeless, and it is true that other than mentions of DNA tests, mobile phones and i-Pads, there isn’t much that could not have fitted in any other era (although we assume it’s contemporary). Memories of the past by several of the characters appear more vivid at times than the present era and ring truer.

Although the characters do not appear to be very sophisticated or complex, there is enough background history to create a picture in the minds of the reader, although some might result very familiar to habitual readers (adulterous husband, unhappy married woman who drinks too much, three unmarried sisters still living together, the town’s busybody…). My main problem with the characters was that I never felt I truly connected with any of them and I’m not sure if that is perhaps because all of them seem to be observing themselves rather than living or feeling. They are all lonely, even the ones who are in relationships, and seem frozen (as the writer notes in his comments), unable to move on because of some loss long ago (be it real or imagined). It brought to my mind Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, not because of the style or setting, but because of the feeling of the characters (although far less dark).

I read in some of the comments that there was humour. Perhaps it was my frame of mind when I read it (although I don’t think it was particularly dark) and some of the characterizations and the events could be funny in their own right, but combined with the characters and their circumstances I would not recommend it as a funny story.

There writing is fairly descriptive and the pace leisurely rather than the frantic pace of thrillers, and for me, there was more showing than telling at some points of the story that also gave it a more contemplative style than is usual in modern mysteries.

The plot was well built and the story and the details are interesting (with some minor surprises although the general gist is not that difficult to guess). It also ends on a more positive note than the rest of the novel anticipates but I won’t comment on it not to spoil the story.

Overall it is an interesting novel, easy to read although it perhaps doesn’t sit easy either as a thriller or a cozy mystery (none of the characters is weird or peculiar enough and the mystery itself is more realistic than in these kinds of stories) and that makes it a bit more challenging to recommend to genre readers.

Thanks to the publishers, the writer and to NetGalley for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

By OlgaNunez

I was born in Barcelona and after living in the UK for many years have now returned home. I teach English, volunteer at Sants 3 Ràdio, a local radio station, I'm a writer, translator (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and I'm a medical doctor and worked in Forensic Psychiatry many years. I also have a BA and a PhD in American Literature and Film, and a Masters in Criminology. I've always loved books and apart from writing them I review them often.
I write a bit of everything, check my books for more information and my about page for links.
My blog is bilingual, English and Spanish.

18 replies on “#Bookreview HOLDING by Graham Norton (@grahnort) Not a genre novel but an interesting story #TuesdayBookBlog”

I agree, Tess. There are books that fall easily into a category and some that… not so much. But personally, I’m quite fond of quirky books that don’t seem too comfortable anywhere. Thanks for the comment, Tess.

Thanks, Rosie. A lot of people seemed far more enthusiastic than me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good read but didn’t blow me away.

This is an interesting one, because I must admit to finding Graham Norton very amusing and I like him. Given my bias – I will pick this book up….and I always enjoy stories, yarns about small Irish villages, towns….Thank you, Olga for bringing this to my attention. Hoping, if you are in Barcelona that it is a lot warmer than in the UK right now….I have woken to bright skies and a very hard frost, which I do enjoy. Have a lovely day and week ahead – Janet:)x

Thanks, Janet. The temperatures have gone down here too (yes, still in Barcelona, at least until later in the month, waiting on some feedback from my mother’s doctors appointments, although everything seems stable) but not as much (I have the computer still set to the weather back there, and it was below zero tonight. Here it’s around 14 or 15 during the day, but it was snowing in Madrid yesterday). The book is a perfectly pleasant read, although I didn’t find it as funny as some people seem too (perhaps I felt the loneliness and sadness of the characters more keenly than it was intended). Have a great week.

Wow, snow in Madrid? I hope your mom gets a good report/feedback from the doctors. Stay warm. 🙂
Thanks for your statement about the “humor” in the book, because from other reviews, I would have been expecting a larger focus on that. All things considered, I’d probably think the book was sadder than most found it. Thanks for another mindful review, Olga. Huge hugs.

Thanks, Teagan. I’m sure it will be OK, but I also hope there will be news about the other cataract operation soon. Madrid is inland and it tends to get more extreme weather (here the Mediterranean coast keeps the worst of the weather at bay, usually). Good job we’re not having the book fair outside in Madrid in December (as it had been discussed). It’s been moved to March/April. From the author’s note, I think he also felt the same about the book, but perhaps reader where expecting the book to be funny due to Graham Norton’s persona on TV and they saw more humour than I did. Keep well!

When a TV personality writes a book, it is often guaranteed a ready audience of exisiting fans that will look forward to reading it. I can take or leave Graham Norton myself, though his witty attacks on some celebrities that appear on his show can be a joy at times. I am however left asking myself if this book would have been so well-received if the author was an ‘unknown’.
Best wishes, Pete.

I know what you mean. I kept thinking exactly the same as I read the book. It’s not badly written, but I honestly wonder if a traditional publisher would have agreed to publish such a book from somebody unknown, as I doubt it would be deemed “commercial” without the name of the author.

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