Book Review: Home Stretch

Graham Norton

Home Stretch

Hodder & Stoughton, October 2020

Paperback, 362PP, €12.99

ISBN: 978 1 473 66517 0

Review by Joanna Geoghegan.

It is 1987, and the town of Mullinmore, County Cork, is in high glee as they prepare for a wedding. The afternoon before the big day, however, the bride, groom and a bridesmaid are killed in a car crash. One of the survivors, Connor, must live with the guilt of having been the driver. Driven out by shame, Connor seeks refuge in Liverpool and London before finally settling in New York. But the past can only stay buried for so long, and soon Connor must face his secrets head-on.

Norton’s narration is atmospheric and transportive, yet the book also reminds the reader of the connectedness of the global Irish population as well as the closeness of small, rural Irish towns; Norton illustrates the ubiquity of the global Irish community in his account of Connor’s travels, and the subsequent inevitability of unearthing some previously undiscovered link to home. As much as we may try to run from our past, it catches up to us eventually.

In Home Stretch, Graham Norton takes the opportunity to explore the destructive effects of homophobia, particularly as it affects the rural, close-knit communities of late 20th Century Ireland, which was dominated by a strict allegiance to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Norton considers the discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ community members worldwide and the disastrous effects that such alienation has on gay people. Norton illustrates with poignancy the internalisation of homophobia, and the fear and lack of self-esteem that LGBTQ+ individuals experience as a result.

In this book, Graham Norton lauds the perseverance and bravery of those in the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland for their dedication to making this country a more friendly and tolerant place. A celebration of the breakdown of stigma and the progress towards equality and acceptance that has been made by LGBTQ+ people, Home Stretch is a story of victory.

To celebrate Graham Norton’s recent win of the Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards, RTÉ will be airing a special showing of our event with Graham in conversation with Rick O’Shea in partnership with Easons on Tuesday 1st December at 7pm! Click the link below for more information.