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Turning for Home

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  309 ratings  ·  51 reviews
'Wasn’t the life of any person made up out of the telling of two tales, after all? People lived in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they had for them. Everyone needed their stories, the other side of the ribbon of their lives, the real life and the dream, the statement and the meaning, all of them a tape’s breadth apart from each other, impossib ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 11th 2018 by Doubleday
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
In Ireland, starving was always about honour. The old way among the peasants of that country, as I understand it, was that if someone had wronged you, you sat down at their doorway and went on hunger strike. And if you died there at the person’s door, they were forever dishonoured, and reparations would have to be paid to the family of the deceased. To get the hunger striker up from where they sat, amends had to be made for whatever wrong you’d done them, and then they’d eat again. That was t
Paul Fulcher
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2017
There ought to be truth and reconciliation in every stratum of the lives people lead.

Barney Norris is a very talented young writer - playwright, poet and novelist - and his debut novel Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain was certainly striking if, to my taste, rather flawed (see

His second novel Turning for Home was inspired by the true-life story of what came to be known as The Boston Tapes, a series of recorded interviews conducted in 2001-6 with (former

The “Boston Tapes” were an oral history project about the Irish Troubles, commenced by Boston College in 2001. Researchers conducted interviews with both republicans and loyalists, on the understanding that the transcripts of the interviews would not be released to the authorities, at least until the interviewees’ deaths. Years later, investigators sought access to the tapes, giving rise to legal and diplomatic issues which, it is often argued, might have had an impact on the Irish peace pro
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A large family get-together is always a good set piece for exposing dysfunctional family dynamics, which is the basis of this novel. Regrets, feelings of loss, grief and buried hostilities are brought to the surface as friends, relatives and offspring gather to celebrate a grandfather's 80th birthday. A surprising backstory emerges from the internal musings of two of the characters as the preparations unfold, in a deceptively low key build up of revelations. The fraught mother and daughter relat ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, not that that’s a criticism. We have two narrations and at first Robert’s seems to dominate. He has retired from some kind of security role with the British Government, at one point dealing with Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. His former activities and contacts come back to haunt him with the threatened fall-out from the Boston Tapes, a supposedly confidential series of interviews with people who took part in operations on both sides ...more
Karen Cole
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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. Ro
Leilah Skelton
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
His birthday has always been the event that draws his extended family together. In his 80th year, the first since the loss of his wife, Robert sees that faces are beginning to ebb away. Granddaughter Kate, adrift on a different sea of sadness and struggle, has returned to pick at the frayed ends of her own family ties. They aim to hold each other up, (and in a small way, this book feels like a place for its reader to rest their weight, too).

Through alternating narratives, Norris reveals the fine
Susan Corcoran
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would like to thank the publisher Doubleday, author Barney Norris and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC copy of Turning For Home in return for an honest review.
I recently heard blogger Savidge Reads talk on his Youtube channel about how some books just ‘chime’ with you as a reader. It’s a perfect way to explain, how there are books that for one reason or another, make a connection with a book lover, which will never be broken.
Without any doubt this book will forever be one of my most
Ronnie Turner
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adored Turning For Home by Barney Norris. It is an emotional, achingly beautiful book that is literally impossible to put down. In this book are some very heavy themes – death, heartache, darkness of mind and darkness of soul, grief so inconsolable it seems to hijack your heart and take the reins on your life. But running aside all this is a heart-wrenching story of family, elements of love, life and happiness. You don’t realise how deeply Barney Norris’ words touch you until a bubble of immen ...more
Cheryl M-M
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I really struggle to write a review of a book, and this is one of those struggles. How can I, a mere reader and blogger even begin to put into words just how beautiful, moving and really quite wonderful this story is?

I'll try, but to be honest, I'd like to say just go out and buy it, read it, savour it and then you'll realise my difficulties. This is a book that touched me, that send spears of emotion through my heart, and made me feel so grateful to be a reader. Having the opportunity
Emily Fordham
Barney Norris has hit the jackpot again with Turning for Home. I am constantly in awe of the way he creates totally believable characters and how he uses language to convey deep meaning in a way that doesn’t feel like hard work when you are reading. So many passages in this book were incredibly profound and literally made me say ‘wow’. It’s like Barney gets right into your head and articulates thoughts you’ve had in the past for you... only in a much more eloquent way! One passage towards the en ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
It's very hard to describe what Turning For Home is "about", because in the conventional sense it is virtually without plot: an old man, Robert Shawcross, has a birthday party, his troubled granddaughter Kate attempts to reconcile with her mother, and a figure from the past reappears at the party to complete some unfinished business related to Robert's career as a civil servant, during which time he served as a diplomatic backchannel between U.K. government and the IRA. It is a book much more co ...more
Cleopatra  Pullen
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Grandfather on his eightieth birthday and his grand-daughter a mere quarter of a century old are the figureheads for the talented Barney Norris’s latest book, Turning For Home but don’t be mislead this is far deeper than the conventional birthday gathering where memories are both revived and made.

Robert Shawcross is eighty and despite the loss of his wife the year before he is holding his annual birthday party, the one Hattie his wife instigated when he was forty, originally conceived as an op
Mary Crawford
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Robert is celebrating his 80th birthday, it is a sad time for him as his wife has died in the past year. Kate his granddaughter is helping today, she has not attended this family event for the last three years as she has been unwell. The story develops between these two characters, one looking back over his life and the other trying to make sense of her life. Their relationship is close without being intrusive. Robert has been a high level civil servant working in the North and he receives a pho ...more
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really beautiful little book. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. The writing is gorgeous and his deep understanding of his characters made them so relatable, I felt I really knew them. I didn't give it 5 stars only because there were a few story elements which felt clunky and didn't ring true to where the story ended up. Highly recommend. ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was the last book I read in 2019 and it was a worthy choice. The blurb doesn't give much away so I wasn't sure what I was in for. This book is about grief, loss and healing. The author does a good job of delving into the two main characters heads and there is some really poignant and beautifully expressed thoughts about moving on from loss and the impact people can have on your life. ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Evening Standard have described Barney Norris as 'A rare and precious talent'.  They're not wrong.

With a beauty and sensitivity that is becoming characteristic of his writing, Turning for Home explores themes of grief and bereavement.

It's Kate's grandfather's 80th birthday and every year the whole extended family congregates to celebrate.  This year however, they both have reasons to dread the event.

Deftly switching the narrative between the octogenarian Robert and his granddaughter, Barney
Daren Kearl
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
In his acknowledgements at the back Barney Norris states that originally this book was going to just be about the Boston College tapes and the IRA. He hints at a family tragedy that caused him to include the more involving and moving experience of anorexia as seen from the narrator Kate. The author’s personal catharsis allows the reader a memorable insight into the mind of someone living with an eating disorder. I think it would have been a very different novel if it had solely focussed on the I ...more
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a slow read. And, for anyone reading advice about writing books that show and don’t tell, it breaks all the rules. Told in the first person by two alternating points of view, Robert and his granddaughter Kate, Turning for Home is nonetheless a fascinating account of the interior world.

So what’s it about? It’s about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, about the effect we can have on other people, about loss, mental illness and it’s about not eating.

Robert is a retired member of British Inte
Heather Noble
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to let go of this book and to verbalise what it has meant as the author's prose is so accomplished and exquisite. For me the overriding theme is one of grief and the isolation it can bring. Kate in her mid twenties and her 80 year old grandfather are equally unprepared to cope with events in their lives that require them to carry on and communicate with friends and family while keeping their intense emotional responses repressed behind the masks required to face the world. The book pro ...more
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A story of family, told from the perspective of Robert & his granddaughter, Kate. Both Robert & Kate have elements of their past that are raising their heads around the time of the family’s festive party. Robert is faced with coming to terms with his involvement in the Boston Tapes & Kate must face her mother for the first time in a long time.

As with Norris’s debut novel, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, Turning for Home is beautifully written. A lovely read & one I recommend.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A poorly formed book, the story of Robert didn't make any sense with the rest of the story and became very annoying. Too many long monologues about the meaning of life that I skim read as they were very repetitive. A shame as if the story had focused more on the party and the characters there it would have been much better. I did appreciate Kate's story far more and the struggles she's faced, they actually related to the party whereas Roberts didn't at all. ...more
Amanda Brookfield
Aug 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
It's a horrible feeling when you don't like a book that you had expected to be engrossed by. It introduces a sense of frustration - of having wasted one's precious time. Worse, if you happen to be a novelist yourself, you feel guilty because you know only too well that this was an endeavour that took time, sweat and hope, and so what right have you, the reader, simply to dismiss it as a failure?

Therefore, although I could only bring myself to give Barney Norris's 'Turning for Home' one measly s
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

Beautifully and lyrically written, I was soon totally absorbed in this book, alternating between Robert’s and Kate’s stories, as they reveal their thoughts and emotions, reflecting on their lives. It’s set on the day of Robert’s 80th birthday celebration. Still grieving after his wife’s recent death, he is finding it a sad, rather than a joyful occasion as the family gather together. His granddaughter, Kate is troubled at the thought of meeting her mother again after a
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Barney Norris's debut Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain was one of my favourite books last year and I looked forward to his second novel. Once again he writes with warmth and understanding of the human condition, in this case, grandfather Robert Shawcross who is celebrating his 80th birthday, the first family celebration since his wife's death, and his granddaughter Kate, who is dreading this annual celebration as much as he is.

I found Kate's story immeasurably moving as she deals with her anore
Jo-anne Atkinson
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Every year the family descends on the 'big house' to celebrate Robert's birthday. This year both Robert and his granddaughter Kate have more cause than usual to reflect. For Robert, having recently lost his wife, actions from the past re-surface. He was involved in the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the release of the 'Boston Tapes' means that old allies are coming out of the woodwork. Meanwhile Kate has her own demons to conquer, after an accident that robbed her of her love she has suffered ...more
Anne McLoughlin
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The setting is the birthday party of grandfather Robert, a widower of a year. A great vehicle to work subplots around - family frictions and the lives of various members. The relationship between anorexic Kate and her mother, Robert and his busybody sister-in-law Laura - always the self-appointed caterer at every party. All the family cameos worked very well.
The ordinary family stuff was set against a political background of the Northern Ireland troubles.
It was a great insight into the workings
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I finished reading Barney Norris’ new novel ‘Turning For Home’ yesterday afternoon, I was too much of an emotional wreck to say anything coherent. A powerful novel, written with a grace and sensitivity that is so rare in today’s fiction, Norris’ gift is making you invest in the emotional foibles of wildly disparate people while sneaking in devastating gut-punches where you least expect them - the last sixty pages were particularly laden with pain and optimism and love. At one point one of t ...more
Joanna Halpin
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Really good book, with interesting themes and often heartbreaking moments. The flaws were there,although only slight. I think the character of Kate was done exceptionally well, but it is so difficult to write about something like anorexia without warranting thoughts or criticism. Regardless, there is a definite care and consideration at work here. I think Barney will be around for a while and this is a good thing.
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