One of my reading resolutions for the new year is to try to read some of the books which have been languishing on my to-be-read pile for far too long. Today, I am reviewing Graham Norton’s latest book, Home Stretch. It was first published in October 2020 though I only bought my copy in August last year. I loved both Graham Norton’s previous books and when I checked back on GoodReads I saw I gave them both 5 stars so this book had a lot to live up to! Would Home Stretch be as good? Read on to find out what I thought.
About the book
Shame and longing can flow through generations, but the secrets of the heart will not be buried for ever.
It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. The day before the ceremony a group of young friends, including bride and groom, drive out to the beach. There is an accident. Three survive, but three are killed.
The lives of the families are shattered and the rifts between them are felt throughout the small town. Connor is one of the survivors. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, he makes a home – of sorts – for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.
But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to confront his past.
Graham Norton’s powerful and timely novel of emigration and return demonstrates his keen understanding of the power of stigma and secrecy – with devastating results.
Home Stretch shows the effects of a tragic accident on a several families in a small Cork community. It shows how your life can change in an instant and how the repercussions can reverberate through the years. It’s one of these books that makes you wonder what you would have done and how you would have felt if you were in the same position as Connor, the main character.
Although we follow many of the characters over several decades the main focus is on Connor and I really felt for him. Norton shows how Connor hiding his past and his true self led to so much unhappiness until he finally decides the time has come to face the truth.
I am sure that Graham Norton has drawn on a lot of his own experiences as a young Irish man moving away when writing this book. Indeed, he comments at the end that he admires those people who had the courage to stay in Ireland and work towards a better more tolerant society. I felt this was a very personal book and that this resulted in a heartfelt and genuine read.
So I’m pleased to say that I thought Home Stretch was just as good as Graham Norton’s previous books. In fact, I think it’s his best yet. It’s got a fair few surprises in it and quite a lot of really emotional scenes, particularly between Connor and his family. If you are someone who is sceptical and thinks that famous people get writing contracts just because of who they are, then set your scepticism aside. It might be the case sometimes but not here. Graham Norton can most definitely write and is a natural storyteller. Home Stretch is a poignant, surprising and absorbing read and I loved it.
About the Author
Graham Norton is one of the UK’s most treasured comedians and presenters. Born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, Norton’s first big TV appearance was as Father Noel Furlong on Channel 4’s Father Ted in the early 1990s. He then secured a prime time slot on Channel 4 with his chat shows So Graham Norton and V Graham Norton.
Known for his quick wit Graham began hosting a variety of talent shows on BBC One from Strictly Dance Fever and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? to The Eurovision Song Contest and BAFTAs. Graham was soon approached by the BBC to front his own self-titled chat show The Graham Norton Show in 2007.
Graham Norton has won 9 BAFTAs for Best Entertainment Performance, and Best Entertainment Programme. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, a show on BBC Radio 2 every Saturday, and is a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Norton won the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards in 2017.