I’m always wary of famous names suddenly deciding that they are going to be authors. There are a lot of writers out there desperate for their big break yet here comes a glamour model telling us they have written a book which will get more publicity and money thrown at it than a 1000 struggling authors’ debuts.
I was wrong about Graham Norton.
I was lucky enough to attend an event as part of Manchester Literature Festival in 2018 where he brought his latest book, A Keeper, for our consideration (click here for my experience). Norton was as engaging as ever but it wasn’t until this Christmas when his book appeared in my clutches.
I’d read his debut, Holding, and thought it was a nice read with charming characters. But with A Keeper, Norton has found his feet as a writer and presents a tightly woven plot (well two actually) with strong characters. I can honestly say that I didn’t know where this novel was going and I read it in about three days. It takes a lot for me to be unable to put a book down but this was one.
The story centres around Elizabeth Keane, a lecturer settled in New York who returns to her roots following the death of her mother, Patricia. Elizabeth’s life is turned upside down by a series of revelations on both sides of the Atlantic. She is soon drawn into her past where all is not as it seems; yet at the same time her future is thrown more than one curveball.
We also get to see things through the eyes of her recently departed mother, when she was a young woman in a small town looking for love and daring to try a Lonely Hearts column.
Norton presents two independent stories with the overarching message that life can be lonely, grief can be all consuming and no matter how hard we try to control things they have a tendency to derail us at a moment’s notice.
The pacing of the novel is wonderful, as Elizabeth uncovers facts about her past, we see them play out before our very eyes in Patricia’s story, yet we are kept guessing right up until the last moment.
I love that Norton has made the decision to draw from his Irish upbringing rather than from his showbiz lifestyle, it makes the story feel that it is has come from his heart rather than from some publisher’s profit and loss spreadsheet. You can almost hear him reading the words to you.
A Keeper is a wonderful read packed with characters that change from hero to villain and back again, keeping you on your toes and smiling when you turn the final page.