About the Book:
Carol is a divorced teacher living in a small town in Ireland, her only son now grown. A second chance at love brings her unexpected connection and belonging. The new relationship sparks local speculation: what does a woman like her see in a man like that? What happened to his wife who abandoned them all those years ago? But the gossip only serves to bring the couple closer.
When Declan becomes ill, things start to fall apart. His children are untrusting and cruel, and Carol is forced to leave their beloved home with its worn oak floors and elegant features and move back in with her parents.
Carol’s mother is determined to get to the bottom of things, she won’t see her daughter suffer in this way. It seems there are secrets in Declan’s past, strange rumours that were never confronted and suddenly the house they shared takes on a more sinister significance.
In his tense and darkly comic new novel Norton casts a light on the relationship between mothers and daughters, and truth and self-preservation with unnerving effect.
Published by Hachette Australia – Coronet
Released September 2022
I have said it before, with every review I’ve written on one of his novels, but Graham Norton really is in a class of his own. Settling in with one of his novels is akin to sitting down with an enormous cup of tea at the end of a very long day. Nothing beats it. In this latest release, Norton blends his signature style of warm and cosy Irish humour punctuated by topical issues with an almost macabre black humour that offered many priceless moments of entertainment.
Without doubt, the shining star of this novel is Carol’s mother, Moira. She was such a wonderfully realised character, literally popping off the page in every scene she was in. The perspectives shift from chapter to chapter, from Carol to Moira, Sally to Killian. Norton excels at painting everyone in their true colours, even if at times their introspection and feelings towards others was less than charitable.
‘Her outrage from the afternoon still pulsed inside her, violent and unwelcome. Did she feel judged by her brother or was it simply jealousy? She wasn’t sure. Before that afternoon she had never thought she was that desperate for a child, but Killian’s big smug face had triggered something. Maybe it was just that she wanted something, anything, when he seemed to have everything. The husband, the house, the lack of guilt. Was that it? The absence of any sort of conscience when they had spoken that afternoon? It just seemed so twisted and wrong to Sally that Killian was to become a father when he showed so little love for his own. The sense of unfairness that had knocked her so badly wasn’t because she didn’t have a baby, but because her brother didn’t deserve one.’
The main issue at hand within this novel is that of financial elder abuse, and Norton shows the chilling ease at which this can be accomplished with little to no intervention from authorities. It’s a stark reminder to get your affairs in order as you age before you are no longer able to do so. Carol’s situation that she ended up in was also a shocking example of what happens when you give up all your own assets and agency for a partner. I like how Norton weaves these issues into his story, the humour not detracting from the serious nature of them.
I devoured this novel within two days, it was an absolute joy to read and I highly recommend it to all.
Book 17 in my 22 in 2022 reading challenge.