"Holding" by Graham Norton
The rather serendipitous thing about Holding is that the cover, the thing by which I judge all books despite admonishments not to, never would have caught my attention. The author’s name, on the other hand, certainly did.
And boy am I glad.
Penned by Graham Norton of British chat show fame, this book was a surprising gem.
With rich character development, stunning fluidity of language and intriguing yet believable twists, Holding was a delight to read.
When I received my review copy, I opened it immediately, hoping beyond hope that some of the charm that had attracted me to So Me (Norton’s autobiography) was also present in this book.
And it was.
I was hooked from the first sentence, which described a dopey sergeant – who served as the one man protection force for a small Irish village that, TBH, rarely needed much in the way of protection. Somehow, Norton managed to describe this character in a way that was simultaneously charming and laugh inducing.
As I read on, I came to find that this level of attention and care was provided to all the characters. Oddly, all of the characters were insanely likable. This was particularly paradoxical because all of the characters were also so fucking flawed.
The alcoholic mom who passes out in her parked car and forgets her kids at school? Likeable as hell.
The weird spinster woman who lives with her two sisters and continues to pine over a love that never really was? Likeable.
The detective who is secretly kind of happy that his wife left him and took their baby with her because he was sick of the constant noise. Somehow, still, likable.
Often times – too often, if you ask me – I’ll come across books that either have strong character development or have a stellar plot. To my delight, this book had both.
The slow burn of this plot was truly delightful.
It starts strong – with the discovery of human reminds (albeit, old ones) in a site that is being excavated. As our lovably plump and decidedly unathletic sergeant begins to investigate, we are introduced to this cast of characters – the likable ones I just talked about. Though there is an ever-so-slight lull during this character meet and greet, it’s brief and decidedly necessary. The vast majority of the character development takes place as the plot moves forward, yielding legitimately surprising developments– something that I rarely see in thrillers.
Though it was a mystery at its core, this book didn’t fall victim to many of the tropes that commonly transform solid mysteries into weak attempts at suspense. Holding was anything but formulaic. In fact, I wish you could determine a formula for this book so you could make more like it.
I do feel compelled to end this rather glowing review with one word of caution – and try not to sound too snobby while doing so. Holding will particularly appeal to intellectuals (okay, nerds) who love the English language. If you’re looking for rapid plot development and fast-paced action, this book probably isn’t for you.
But my love for the English language never ceases, and my affections for Graham Norton were only further cemented by my reading of this book.
After much deliberation, I firmly feel that this book is deserving of 5 out of 5 cocktails.
I am not an autobiography/biography person, but Graham Norton’s So Me is the exception to this rule. How do you feel about the genre? Have you ever been compelled to read a bio? If so, who was it about? Talk about it in the comments, below.
Let’s see…what should I read next? To see what I decide, go here.