The brilliant new novel from the author of the award-winning FIVE RIVERS MET ON A WOODED PLAIN.
'One of our most exciting young writers' - The Times
'Isn’t the life of any person made up out of the telling of two tales, after all? People live in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they have for them. The whole world makes more sense if you remember that everyone has two lives, their real lives and their dreams, both stories only a tape’s breadth apart from each other, impossibly divided, indivisibly close.'
Every year, Robert's family come together at a rambling old house to celebrate his birthday. Aunts, uncles, distant cousins - it has been a milestone in their lives for decades. But this year Robert doesn't want to be reminded of what has happened since they last met - and neither, for quite different reasons, does his granddaughter Kate. Neither of them is sure they can face the party. But for both Robert and Kate, it may become the most important gathering of all.
As lyrical and true to life as Norris's critically acclaimed debut Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, which won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards, this is a compelling, emotional story of family, human frailty, and the marks that love leaves on us.
I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Turning For Home today, my grateful thanks to the author, publishers and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the book.
I finished Turning For Home last week and I've been putting off writing this review because I'm not sure I'm going to be able to find the words that do this exquisitely beautiful book justice.
The story is told through the perspectives of Robert and his granddaughter, Kate as they narrate alternate chapters. Kate has arrived at Robert's house ahead of his annual birthday party - this year a milestone as it's his 80th birthday. Both are preoccupied by their pasts but for very different reasons. Robert is jolted back to his civil service days as confessions heard on the Boston Tapes - an oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland - bring an unexpected visitor from his past and lead to his discovering shocking secrets from that time and to having to contemplate his own role in events. The feeling of being involved again is almost intoxicating to Robert for whom this party is a poignant reminder of his own ageing and of loved ones lost, particularly his beloved wife.
Meanwhile, Kate has her own troubles. This is the first time she has attended the party for three years and she is dreading coming face to face with her estranged mother. The reasons for Kate's fragility are gradually revealed; a terrible tragedy led to her becoming very ill and ultimately needing hospitalisation. This is not my story to tell so I'm not going to discuss details of her illness suffice to say that it is covered with extraordinary sensitivity and empathy, bringing a touching clarity to a misunderstood condition without ever becoming sentimental. Male authors are often criticised for the way they write their female characters but Barney Norris has created a woman who is deeply complex and utterly authentic.
This is a story that is allowed to develop gradually, the alternating chapters are long, allowing the characters' narratives to unfold organically. Nothing feels rushed, this is a book to become engrossed in, to feel as much as to read. As it reached its conclusion the tears were streaming down my cheeks; Turning For Home shines a light on the complexities of family life and on love, loss, guilt and forgiveness with an exceptional perceptiveness. With its beautiful, lyrical prose that meant I reread passages to really appreciate them, Turning For Home is one of those books that speaks to your soul. Every word of praise you will read about this very special novel is absolutely deserved, it may only be January but this will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year. Highly, highly recommended.
Turning For Home is published in the UK by Doubleday/Transworld and can be purchased here. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.
About the Author
Barney Norris was born in Chichester in 1987 and grew up in Sussex, London and Salisbury.
A graduate of the universities of Oxford and Royal Holloway, his plays are AT FIRST SIGHT (presented on tour and at Latitude Festival, 2011) and MISSING (Tristan Bates Theatre 2012), and his poetry, stories and other writings have been published in various little magazines.
He is the co-artistic director of the theatre company Up In Arms (www.upinarms.org.uk), works as Max Stafford-Clark's assistant at Out of Joint, and has previously worked and trained under Bernard O'Donoghue, Andrew Motion, Jo Shapcott, Thelma Holt, Peter Gill and David Hare, and at Salisbury Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse, the Royal Court and the Bush.
Follow him on Twitter @barnontherun