Friday, January 5, 2018

Holding - Graham Norton

Summary: 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. Summary and image from goodreads.com

Review: I know, I know. You’re probably thinking the same thing I did: hold up! Graham Norton wrote a book!? It’s got to be wildly hilarious, dry, and utterly British, right!?. At least, that’s what I was thinking. I was convinced I was going to be in for a surprise with this book. I was, just not the one I was expecting.

I heard Norton talking about his book and describing it as a sleepy town with a quiet mystery, and I was intrigued. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I did expected it to be well done, hilarious (because hello, Graham Norton), and a quick read. It was a quick read, but I was surprised to find very little humor in the book. The town definitely is sleepy, the mystery was quaint, but hardly a mystery at all, and the characters themselves were overall relatively unredeemable.

Let’s break this down. Characters first — these guys weren’t my favorites. They seemed oversimplified. I mean, this is the author’s first book, so I was trying to cut him some slack, but still. I’d have liked a little bit of originality breathed into them. It was like he decided which tropes a small town would have, gave them names, and then decided that that was enough development. 

Okay, let’s move onto the storyline. To be honest, I felt like there was no originality in this storyline at all. I’ve read this “mystery” in a million other forms, and most of them better than this one. There’s “mistaken identity” and a “buried secret” and it doesn’t take more than a minute for a mom-addled brain to put together what was going to happen, or what had happened. Being able to read the signs so early on, it just cast the whole book into a dreary light which dampened any enjoyment I would have had from it.

Finally, let’s talk about the writing. I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the storyline, but I’ll be honest. Graham Norton can craft a sentence. It may be a boring sentence, but it’s well-crafted. I think that’s what kept me reading. I didn’t enjoy much about it, but I did appreciate his writing. Is that enough to save the book? Not really, but it did give me a bit more relief than I otherwise would have gotten from reading it.

 Overall, this is a skippable one. But keep your eye on Mr. Norton. If this whole British Talk Show Host thing doesn’t work out, he may just have a future in books.

Rating: Two stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Affairs, sex scenes, rape, murder, foul language. Just stay away.

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