A secret's been unearthed in the small Irish town of Duneen and with it a discovery made that illuminates stories from the town's dark past and that has implications for the cast of brilliantly, beautifully drawn characters.
The castdown policeman who lives a uneventful, lonely life punctuated only by the next meal - until now; a mysterious family of three beautiful spinster sisters each with their secrets and sorrows; the town's gossip who thinks she knows the answers.. And when a discovery is made on the building site of a new development up behind the old school, this once innocent, slow-seeming town is revealed to have a much darker undertow.
What did I think of the book?
Duneen is a small, inconsequential village in Ireland, where nothing of any interest ever happens, and everybody knows everybody else's business. There are no secrets.
But then one day a human skeleton is uncovered on a new housing development site. Now tongues are wagging - could the remains be that of young Tommy Burke who had mysteriously disappeared over 20 years ago?
Holding is set in modern times - there are cell phones and computers, cars etc...but at the same time, there is an authentic feel of the 1940's. It is as if time had stood still here. In the "Acknowledgements" at the end of the book, Norton tells us that Bantry was his inspiration for Duneen and that essence of Bantry certainly comes across in the story. Reading Holding was like watching an old episode of Ballykissangel, but this time, it is the Garda that is the hero rather than the priest!
Holding is a very fast paced read, which is helped considerably by the various point-of-views. I love books like this; I guess I am a bit of a nosey person, and I want to know what everyone is thinking - but, in the beginning, I have to admit that I struggled to keep up with all the changing point of views. Several times I had to stop and re-read the previous paragraph to understood which character's perspective I was seeing things from. This slowed the story down for me...initially. Once I got a feel for all the characters, this was no longer a problem, and I got lost in the story and believe me this story was very easy to get lost in.
All the characters were incredibly well-fleshed and I could visualise them in my mind easily. The most fascinating character for me and the one I enjoyed reading about the most was the Garda, Seargent Collins. He was by far the most complex and interesting character in the book. He isn't the obvious protagonist, but for me, he was the hero of this story.
All the characters have flaws. There was no perfect person with a perfect life. Everyone was struggling with their own demons, whether that be abandonment, alcoholism, abuse or obesity. It made it very real in the telling because, let's face it, life is like that.
Norton does not shy away from some really distressing topics - but he approaches them with integrity and compassion. He is certainly very skilled at drawing empathy from his readers.
Holding is an incredible emotive read that kept me guessing. I was thinking several times, "Oh, I know where he is going with this..." and then Norton would throw in another twist that I didn't see coming. This book certainly held my attention throughout.
With beautifully written prose and an elegant wit, I have no hesitation in recommending this book.
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