Off the Shelf: A Keeper, by Graham Norton
Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 978 1473 66498 2 2018 326 pp.
Review by Terry Kenneally
This is the second novel I have read and reviewed by Graham Norton, a BBC TV presenter and comedian. As I said in my previous review of Holding,Norton missed his calling as a writer and a great storyteller.
The story follows Elizabeth Keane, who returns to Ireland after her mother’s death to tie up loose ends at a very unhappy time in her life. She left behind her teenage son and an ex-husband. As she sorts through her mother’s house in her tiny hometown of Buncarragh, she finds a stash of letters telling a story that she was never told.
The letters were written from her father to her mother right at the start of their relationship. She had never known her father; he had died when she was very young. Elizabeth decides that she wants to find out more about him. And when Elizabeth finds she has been left a seaside cottage in the will, the quest into the truth of her origin begins.
Intercut with Elizabeth’s story is that of her mother, Patricia, forty years earlier. Then aged thirty-two, she is considered “most definitely on the shelf.” Urged by a friend she answers a lonely-hearts ad in the Farmer’s Journal and meets Edward Foley, a taciturn farmer who lives in an isolated cottage with his domineering mother.
To describe too much of what transpires between Patricia and the Foleys would be to spoil an intricately constructed tale. The sense of Patricia’s isolation as a single parent in 1970s Ireland is sensitively handled. The story is told in parallel narratives in both the present and the past.
Graham, who hails from Cork, writes about the familiar, with many references to local Cork sights and landmarks. A Keeperis a charming, light read about a daughter’s search for the truth and the impact of past secrets on her life. As I did with Norton’s first foray into writing, I rate A Keeper a TOP SHELF read.
*Terrence is an attorney and owner of The Kenneally Law Firm in Rocky River, Ohio. He represents insureds and insurance companies throughout the state of Ohio in insurance defense litigation. Terrence received his Master’s Degree from John Carroll University in Irish Studies. He teaches Irish history and literature at Holy Name High School and is also the president of the high school.