Home Stretch by Graham Norton.

I’ve been a long-time fan of Graham Norton and his self-named chat show, where celebrities of all ilk grace his couch as he not only puts them at ease, but entertains his guests and audience alike by unearthing gems about those he interviews. The same can’t be said for the folk who are foolish or brave enough to dare the Red chair…

Though I’ve known for a few years that Norton had also written some well-regarded novels, such is my funfair bias against celebrities who write a singular book, let alone books, and receive the kind of publicity that most authors can only dream about – whether the famous person ever wrote the book or not – that I tend to avoid reading them, unless they’re memoirs or come with a recommendation. While I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past, I still find myself feeling irrationally annoyed when, say, someone highly regarded and successful for acting writes one book and calls themselves an author, and then appears on every chat show and newspaper and online, using their “celebrity” to promote their work. But the rational part of me also thinks, why wouldn’t you?  Good for them! (I told you I was biased about celebrities who become writers (as opposed to celebrity writers – no problem with them) – and I’m not proud of it). But this is something Norton doesn’t do. Like other people more famous for one or two things than writing, he humbly creates his fiction and allows it to speak for itself.

And my, awards and accolades aside (which he’s deserved) does it do that.

Let me tell you Norton can not only tell a cracking good yarn, but his writing is moving, evocative and filled with insights about what makes people tick.

Homestretch opens in 1987, just as a small Irish village prepare to celebrate the wedding of two of their young people. On the eve of the wedding a terrible tragedy occurs and lives are lost. But it’s what happens to the survivors and their families, particularly young Connor, in the aftermath and the unfolding years that compounds the sorrow. This unfolding tale of grief, identity, the bonds that both unite and tear us apart, demonstrates how, try as we might, we can never run from our past, let alone our mistakes.

From country Ireland to England and America, this is a poignant, beautifully told story about choices, weakness, strength and how fear – of others, of ourselves and who we were and are – can be a much greater burden than either sorrow or guilt.

Now that I’ve read one Norton book, I cannot wait to read his others.

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