Book Review: Turning for Home by Barney Norris

‘Isn’t the life of any person made up out of the telling of two tales, after all? 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 comes 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 nor, 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.

What I Thought:

Turning for Home is a really interesting book, in that it takes its starting point from large, International affairs, but then distills down to an intimate look at two people dealing with huge personal issues, while trying to navigate an annual family gathering.

Robert’s story, where he has been ‘something in Government’, and thought it all behind him until a University project begins talking to former IRA personnel, was compelling because of his connection to world events. There are twists and secrets here, but it also follows him on a personal level as he deals with the death of his wife, which seems to have been sudden for him as she has successfully hidden her illness.

This is played out alongside his granddaughter Kate’s story, in which we learn that grief and a difficult family relationship has led her to being admitted to hospital. This is her first time at the annual party for three years – was it a mistake?

Barney Norris is a really interesting author as he writes quite slim volumes that pack a mighty punch. Kate’s story contains some incredibly distressing things, and yet is handled with a sensitivity that allows it to unfold in a way that helps you to completely understand her. Her complex relationship with her family will have elements that familiar to many of us – although, perhaps not quite so fraught!

There is an innate sadness in this book, but it resolves in such a joyful and hopeful way, that it makes it ultimately rewarding to read. Just excellent.

You can find out more about Barney Norris at

Please note: I recieved a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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