A hugely successful media career has lead to Cork native, Graham Norton, becoming a household name. The success of his debut novel Holding now sees him adding yet another string to his bow.
I am always drawn to Irish fiction, but, in all honesty, I am not sure would I have bought this novel had it not being written by Graham Norton. Sheer curiosity is what lead to me reading Holding. I refrained from reading reviews. I wondered would it be funny, filled with witty one liners, littered with innuendo and over run with cliché’s. I was surprised, it had none of those things. It is extremely well written and a pleasant surprise for the reader.
Holding is set in the remote Cork village of Duneen, a locality that has seen very little in the way of drama.
When the remains of a body are unearthed on a construction site the quiet, unassuming Sergeant PJ Collins finds himself with his first ever genuine case to solve. A vulnerable man with his own personal struggles, one may initially assume that the author intends to draw comedic value from the Sergeant; instead I found myself warming to his gentle nature, at times feeling sympathetic towards him and silently cheering for him when an unexpected sexual encounter did not lead to regret for either party.
It is suspected that the remains unearthed are those of Tommy Burke who was loved by Evelyn Ross but engaged to Bríd Ríordan when he disappeared some years before. The discovery revisits the wealth of anger and resentment that simmers between the two ladies.
Evelyn, a lady who has already suffered more than her fair share of tragedy, shares her family home with her sisters. Three women, often the subject of small town whispers, who keep themselves to themselves.
Bríd, locked in a loveless marriage, finds herself turning to wine, regardless of the time of day, in order to help her process the turn of events at the construction site on Burke’s farm. All these years thinking Tommy Burke had rejected her, abandoned her before her wedding; when he may never have left her at all.
I can’t not mention Sergeant Collin’s housekeeper, Mrs Meaney, a pleasant lady intent on looking after the Sergeant, feeding him, looking after him, mothering him almost. What does she know about the events unfolding? She shares a tale with PJ, a story of a young girl in ‘trouble’ in 1960’s Ireland. This story is told with such compassion and understanding of the country at that time. My heart ached for her.
This book begs the question, is it worth holding onto secrets that will inevitably be told.
Graham Norton has proved himself a wonderful story teller. This book is at times compassionate, sympathetic, deeply sad and always, extremely good.
Disclaimer: I bought my own copy of Holding and provided this review by choice.