I am absolutely delighted to be part of the #BlogTour for this incredibly talented author. Believe you me the hype is not only worth it, it is also absolutely accurate. Barney Norris has a knack for storytelling and is a scribe worth watching.
About the Author
Barney Norris was born in Sussex in 1987, and grew up in Salisbury. Upon leaving university he founded the theatre company Up In Arms. He won the Critics’ Circle and Offwestend Awards for Most Promising Playwright for his debut full-length play Visitors. He is the Martin Esslin Playwright in Residence at Keble College, Oxford. Barney’s new play Nightfall is one of the three inaugural productions at Nicholas Hytner’s new Bridge Theatre, beginning early 2018.
About the book
Once a year, every year, Robert’s family come together at a rambling old house in the country to celebrate his birthday. Aunts, uncles, grandchildren, distant cousins – it is a milestone in their lives and has been 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. Robert is determined that this will be the final party. But for both him and Kate, it may also 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, this is a compelling, emotional story of family, human frailty, and the marks that love leaves on us.
Barney’s debut novel, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain was bestselling and critically acclaimed – the Guardian called it a ‘state of the nation novel’, and ‘deeply affecting’, and the Mail on Sunday praised it as ‘outstanding…a moving, strangely uplifting novel…Superb’. It featured as Waterstones Book of the Month, and was shortlisted for prizes including the RSL Ondaatje Prize and Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards.
In Turning for Home, Barney tackles the issue of eating disorders, a very personal subject that has affected someone close to him. Barney has much to contribute to current discussion around how mental health and eating disorders in particular are handled by our health services.
It isn’t often one finds an author self-assessing their own novel at the end of said novel, and then pinpointing exactly what my thoughts are on the story in question.
Norris himself says that initially this started out as a story about the Boston Tapes. They started out as a series of frank interviews given by former loyalist and republican paramilitaries that chronicles their involvement in the Troubles, in an attempt to create an oral history of those times. In return for names, dates, places and details, the former paramilitaries made a deal that the interviews wouldn’t be made public until after their deaths.
Including the frank admission that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had his own squad within the IRA, who were responsible for the so-called ‘Disappeared’ of the Troubles. The people who were targeted, kidnapped, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.
Turning for Home is like reading two stories in one, and I am sure both would make excellent stand-alone novels. Together they become something special. A spark ignites and weaves its way through this poignant tale of pain, grief and control.
The reader follows Robert and Kate, grandfather and granddaughter. Their individual tales collide at the annual celebration for Robert’s birthday. A family reunion that has an air of finality to it, especially since the loss of Robert’s wife.
Robert is dealing with the implications of the Boston Tapes. The possibility of secrets being aired has some of his connections running scared, and after so many years the past has the power to insert itself into the future.
Kate’s story is a wee bit more complex. She suffers from anorexia nervosa, which comes under eating disorders in the DSM. Norris gives the reader a candid look into the thought process of someone with an eating disorder, and how many misconceptions there are about how to help someone with the disorder. Even so-called mental health professionals have difficulty really comprehending the grip it can have, and the impact it has on entire families.
It’s all about control and loss of control. When you experience loss of control it is a normal response to try and regain it. You start to look for the one thing no one else can control but you. Food, fat and calories become the enemy and you start to fight them with every inch of your body.
Aside from the obvious familial connection, the thread that connects both Robert and Kate, and their stories, is coping with loss and feelings of guilt. Unresolved emotional distress, trauma and conflict are the equivalent of malignant tumours in our bodies. Sometimes the inner enemy is evident and sometimes it is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode.
Norris writes with a finesse and wisdom beyond his years. He has the gift of gab, a knack for telling a story and pulling his readers along with him on a journey even he doesn’t have the directions for. Eventually he brings himself and us home, regardless of wherever that may be.