Monday, 27 March 2017

Holding by Graham Norton

Pages 312
Bookclub Read

The blurb

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.

My thoughts

“The past was opening up like a great dark bottomless pit, and she felt herself falling.”

Holding caused a stir when it was first released. The reviews in Irish newspapers were glowing and it shot up the bestseller list. All the to-do sure made me curious and I was delighted when my library bought extra copies of the book so it could be read by the Reading Groups. Now that I’ve read the book I’m not entirely sure what to say and am afraid I could well end up damning the book with faint praise.

Let me start by saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with this book. The story is well written and the characters are painted in such a way that I could see them. In fact, a lot about this story was recognisable, probably because I live near a town even smaller than Duneen.

On the other hand, there wasn’t anything in this book to make it stand out as remarkable either. In fact it all felt a bit like ‘same old – same old’, almost to the extent that those recognisable characters felt like caricatures, and Duneen like a prototype Irish small town. As for the mystery, I don’t want to say too much about that because I realise that just because it wasn’t much of a mystery to me doesn't mean it won't be surprising to others. I had however worked out almost exactly what had to have happened long before the solution was presented on the page, and I was almost sorry when it turned out I had been right.

However, none of what I said in the previous paragraph means I didn’t enjoy the book. It was an easy read, at times poignant, and somewhat dark. The only thing mentioned in the blurb I do not agree with is the description of this book as ‘darkly comic’. I don’t think I so much as smiled while reading this story, never mind laughed out loud.

To say I’m on the fence about this one would be an understatement. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anybody from reading Holding but neither is it the first book that would spring to mind if I were asked to recommend a mystery set in Ireland. In fact, it was the Irishness of this story that made it so very predictable for me, which means that people who don’t live in Ireland might well get a lot more out of this book than I did. As it is I’d rate this book a very solid 3.5 stars; there’s nothing wrong with it but it’s not something to write home about either.

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