Those of you at uni or college or high school will know the feeling of the last two weeks of semester. You’ve made it all the way through. You can see the finish line but there is just one last, humungous hurdle in your way.
But instead of buckling down and working that little bit harder, you ease your foot off the accelerator and start coasting. That is, until the night before exams and you have to cram thirteen weeks of knowledge into twelve hours.
Luckily for me, my coasting usually ends the week before my first exam. But what that means is that, although I finished Holding a few days ago, I haven’t had a chance to write it up. If I wasn’t studying or working, I was recovering from studying or working, and basically ending up asleep way later than usual.
This is my way of saying that this review is probably going to be a little less in depth than the last few because it’s been a while since I closed the book.
OK, so, Holding. It took me a while to get into the swing of the novel. Norton introduces us to a lot of characters very quickly and it takes a while to find our bearings. That being said, although this is jarring, it’s also pretty clever. Holding takes place in the small Irish town of Duneen where everyone knows everyone. So to come in and feel separate from the cast actually helps to establish that small town feel.
Holding reminded me a lot of Broadchurch in that a crime stirs up all these old ghosts and secrets that no one in the tiny community ever knew about. I always liked that dynamic, where there’s more to a town/story/person than meets the eye. And this is also true of the characters. We have the Ross sisters, a trio of middle aged shut-ins; an alcoholic mother of two, Brid Riordan; and a morbidly obese police detective, PJ Collins. None of these people are who they seem and they are so multi-faceted that your initial judgements of these characters soon melt away.
I will say that the women of this town don’t seem to really know what love looks like. One, Evelyn Ross, pined away for about twenty years after the town heartthrob, Tommy Burke, gave her a scarf. And another, Brid Riordan, was going to marry a man who clearly didn’t love her because he was also the town heartthrob. Yes, Tommy Burke again.
I don’t know, I just found the “love triangle” to be completely unbelievable. There wasn’t anything really to fight over. They were both “in love” with a man they hadn’t seen in decades. But even when he was around, they didn’t really do anything with him. Like, nothing. No kissing, no hugs, and no I-love-yous.
There’s probably a point in there, but I’m missing it.
I did enjoy the revealing of the secrets, the slow unravelling of the town’s underbelly. I also love how sometimes these secrets had nothing to do with the crime at hand. Red herrings galore and plausible ones at that. I love when that happens.
What I loved most about Holding was the ending. After everything is said and done, the epilogue is this teensy scene that shows how life has moved on. That the characters have moved on. The epilogue is only a few pages long, but it is brilliant.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was wonderful. Graham Norton can definitely weave a wonderful tale.
I do want to leave you with a quote I just found, from Graham Norton himself, talking about Holding. I found it in an article that came up in Google when I was checking the spelling character names. It sums up what I’ve kind of been getting at for the past 600 words:
“I’m not apologising for it. I wanted to write a ‘popular piece of fiction’, something accessible, that was an easy read. I mean, I think it was always going to be an easy read, because I don’t think I can write a difficult read.”
Holding is brilliant, but it is written simply. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with books that have been written in this way, if it’s done well. And Norton has definitely done it well.
P.S. Just in case people are wondering: Yes, I know who Graham Norton is. I love his show. I can spend hours watching it. But I wanted to talk about Graham Norton as an author, not as an hilarious, insightful interviewer with one of the best chat shows on TV. I feel like he deserves to be treated an an author. Books are not easy things to write, and he has done it.