Review: Holding by Graham Norton

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 3.5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆ 

What it’s about:

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.

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Guest Reviewer Tom’s Thoughts:

Graham Norton has written an engaging first Novel in Holding. Set in a small town Duneen, Ireland, Norton paints an exquisite picture of the counterpoint between familiarity of small town life and the inability to achieve a sense of privacy and anonymity. The challenge of achieving this balance is richly portrayed via the introduction and development of the six main characters and how their lives and emotions are intertwined as big news rocks their small town.

Each chapter has readers periodically ‘checking in” on a different character and their emotions as the plot develops. Norton’s transitions here are so well done as to be effortless. The flow and pace of his writing is very smooth and makes you want to keep reading to not break the rhythm. Each character is believable with their personalities and idiosyncrasies deftly revealed in a way that makes them increasingly familiar. This connected me in a way that made me feel that I too was a resident. Norton also uses his comedic talent to cleverly and enjoyably deliver a periodic turn of phrase, just enough to leave you longing for the next one.

My one criticism is the plot had little tension. There was no real suspense, sense of foreboding, or danger despite the story being built on the mysterious death of a well known inhabitant. For me, a little more tension or surprise would have made it that much more enjoyable. Upon reflection a few days later, however, I came to realize that the characters would stand up regardless of plot which to Norton’s credit is precisely the point.

With more suspense or foreboding, Holding would be a full 4 star read rather than 3.5 stars.



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