Books, Fiction, Reviews

Review: Graham Norton’s Charming Debut, ‘Holding’

| |

Holding is the debut novel of Irish comedian Graham Norton, best known in Australia for his self-titled chat show, quick wit and flamboyant style. Holding, however, is neither flamboyant nor as outrageously funny as you might expect, but rather charming and understated.

Duneen is a quiet Irish town where nothing much ever happens. Its residents include the overweight and socially awkward policeman PJ Collins; unhappy, alcoholic mother of two Brid Riordan; the downtrodden housekeeper Mrs Meany; and the slightly mysterious Ross sisters, Abigail, Evelyn and Florence.

When a body is found on a building site behind the old school, and is thought to be that of Tommy Burke – former lover of both Brid and Evelyn – it becomes the catalyst to unearthing long-buried secrets and rivalries in the little village.

With little experience of small Irish villages, the town of Duneen is easily imagined. It has everything you’d expect – gossipy shopkeepers, a local busybody, an ineffectual but well-meaning priest, interfering parishioners and its fair share of dark secrets. It has such a quaint, old-fashioned feel that it’s almost a shock when someone pulls out a phone or an iPad (although not so shocking when they’re unable to connect). The village and its residents are strangely endearing despite all the gossiping and meddling that goes on. PJ Collins, underworked and largely unappreciated, is a particularly wonderful character. He is insecure, over-weight, sweaty, bumbling and horribly self-aware, but a character for whom you grow extremely fond.

‘People liked him well enough … but it was still quite unsettling for the village that their safety depended on a man who broke into a sweat walking up for communion.’

Brid Riordan who drink drives and seems, quite often, to forget to pick up her kids from school, is portrayed with kindness. Even the slick detective from Cork, Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne, (‘How could he solve a crime when he couldn’t even figure out that his name made him sound like a gobshite?’) who is, at times, both patronising and rude, is not unlikeable. Somehow Norton has managed to create an entire village of characters to care for.

But Holding is not only about characters, it has a plot with enough gentle twists and turns to maintain interest while steering away from the shockingly violent and grim.

Holding is not the novel you would expect Graham Norton to have written. While it is amusing at times, there is something undeniably sweet about Norton’s portrayal of the village and its residents. He shows a depth of understanding about people and their lives that is both impressive and appealing while maintaining a plot that is interesting and well-paced.

Holding is a charming debut.

Grahan Norton’s Holding is published by Hachette Australia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *