The truth drifts out to sea, riding the waves out of sight. And then the tide turns.
A Keeper is the second novel from the best loved broadcaster Graham Norton. Following on from his debut novel Holding, which was a commercial and critical success, Graham Norton set his mind to writing book two. It is described as a ‘compelling new novel confirming Graham Norton’s status as a fresh, literary voice, bringing his clear-eyed understanding of human nature and its darkest flaws.’
Just published with Hodder and Stoughton, I was delighted to receive a signed copy of A Keeper at an event with Graham Norton which was recently hosted by Easons and Rick O’ Shea at The Cork Opera House.
Please do read on for my thoughts…
About the Book:
Elizabeth Keane returns to Ireland after her mother’s death, intent only on wrapping up that dismal part of her life. There is nothing here for her; she wonders if there ever was. The house of her childhood is stuffed full of useless things, her mother’s presence already fading. And perhaps, had she not found the small stash of letters, the truth would never have come to light.
40 years earlier, a young woman stumbles from a remote stone house, the night quiet but for the tireless wind that circles her as she hurries further into the darkness away from the cliffs and the sea. She has no sense of where she is going, only that she must keep on.
I am a HUGE fan of Graham Norton. His show on Friday nights, The Graham Norton Show, is the perfect viewing to entertain and to relax with at the end of a week. His humour is infectious and, without doubt, along with Joanna Lumley, he is on my list of dinner invitees for my ultimate dinner party. I am a 100% born and bred Corkonian and was thrilled when Graham Norton came to the Cork Opera House recently to chat with Rick O’ Shea about his life to date, his writing plans and of course about his latest release A Keeper. Graham Norton is the ultimate entertainer and a fantastic guest on any show.with anecdotes from his life recounted with such wit, it’s easy to forget about reality for awhile.
In A Keeper Graham Norton writes about the familiar, with many references to local Cork sights and landmarks.
‘Every bush, every bower, every wild Irish flower
It reminds me of my Mary on the banks of the Lee’ (The Banks of the Lee)
He refers to Cork train station and The Cork Examiner all set against the backdrop of a Cork of old. All very familiar places and names to me.
A Keeper is the story of Elizabeth Keane. Now living in New York, she returns home to Ireland after her mother’s passing to sort through her belongings and to finally close the door on this part of her life. Elizabeth didn’t have the happiest of childhoods. With no father present and a mother who was very staunch and strict, Elizabeth grew up believing she was different to everybody else. No groups of friends around after school, no displays of affection yet Elizabeth was always safe, she just never felt very loved.
As Elizabeth trawls through her mother’s stuff she happens upon some letters dated over forty years ago. These letters are addressed to her mother and appear to be from an admirer. Elizabeth finds it very difficult to accept that the person mentioned in these letters is her mother as she seems so very different from the woman she remembers.
Elizabeth follows the trail of these letters and takes a journey into the heart of West Cork, where she discovers a past that she was totally unaware of, a past that holds secrets that changes everything Elizabeth ever thought to be the truth about her mother…..and about herself.
A Keeper is a story told over two different timelines as we read about Elizabeth today and about her mother in the early 70s. Ireland was a very very different place in the 70s than it is today. A very religious and conservative society at the time meant that families had secrets, many secrets, kept hidden for years. There is many a family with a past that will always remain buried and such was the case of Elizabeth Keane’s beginnings.
Now I have to be honest here and admit that, although I really do like Graham Norton’s style of writing, I did find the historical plot-line a little too bizarre and far-fetched at times. I loved the descriptions of the dark and wild coastline of West Cork, as these images evoked a threatening atmosphere. but….I am just a little skeptical of the behaviour of some of the local characters. If one is willing to completely suspend belief then perhaps this will not be an issue for you but for me it was a little disappointing. I enjoyed most of the book but there was that point where enjoyment turned to frustration…
Overall A Keeper is written with a very talented pen, of that there is no doubt. It is a charming, light read about a daughter’s search for the truth and the impact of past secrets on her life. It will be interesting to see where Graham Norton takes us next….
Purchase Link ~ A Keeper
Graham Norton is one of the UK’s best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2, and writes a column for the Telegraph.
He is the winner of nine BAFTA awards.
Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London.
His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2016.
Twitter ~ @grahnort
Fab review! I enjoy his radio show but haven’t tried his books yet.
Thanks Nicki. I’m a huge fan of his TV show. Great entertainer. I was hoping for more with this book though!
Thanks for this review, Mairead. I have a feeling someone might buy me ‘A Keeper’ for Christmas and I’m really looking forward to reading it with a Bailey’s or two and a tin of Quality Street at my side – perfect!
How wonderful Sara. Hope you enjoy! Thank you.
Ah pity it was a little frustratingly unrealistic at times- but the writing style sounds good overall. Great review!
Why thank you!
Excellent review Mairead, thank you. This too is on my list as I love Graham and think he is immensely talented. My latest novel refers to this period in Ireland, so, so different from today it’s hard to imagine. I think highlighting these ‘secrets’ and some of the ridiculous reasons for ‘hiding things’ goes some way to explain the odd behaviour of some, but the past certainly is a very different country. (To misquote Rebecca)
My father always says that Adrienne. We need to look at it through the eyes of the past and not the present. V different times indeed. Thank you for your kind words. I too love G Norton. Such a funny and witty man!