This is the second fictional book by that most lively of TV and radio presenters, but it’s as good if not better than the first, Holding, which I enjoyed immensely.

There are two strands, two women and two continents. Elizabeth Keane is in New York, split from her husband Elliot and bringing up her son Zach, who is is 17. Following her mother’s death she returns to Ireland, intent on wrapping up the estate, but finds a stack of letters which gives her a new insight into her mother, Patricia, and also the father from whom she has had no contact throughout her life.

Forty years earlier in small-town Ireland Patricia Keane was lonely and unloved until her friend Rosemary persuades her to put an advert in the Lonely Hearts column of a paper. Through it she meets Edward Foley and visits his home, a farmhouse adjacent to a ruined castle on the cliffs overlooking the sea. But is this love or does the quiet man with whom she exchanges beautiful letters have secrets at home that Patricia becomes drawn into?

Norton writes delightfully and accurately about the ‘smallness’ of towns and villages in Southern Ireland which often contain the most huge emotional traumas. I was utterly shocked about the developments in the plot and the huge transfer of care about babies and life and death come crashing in as hard as the waves against those cliffs that Patricia begins to see as shackles to her freedom.

Perhaps the ending is too contrived but then why not? I was just as shocked (and in tears I had to admit) because once again Norton had drawn me in.

He is growing in confidence as a writer and I am sure there will be more to follow. Great personal read and I am sure book clubs will love this tale and engage with the two main characters and their troubled lives. Ireland isn’t always angst ridden but when it is, it is of course beautifully and charmingly told!

Philipa Coughlan 4/4

A Keeper by Graham Norton
Coronet 9781473664999 pbk Aug 2019