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  • funny, moving, heart-warming, uplifting

    “I felt the world slow down, shudder and grind to a halt as I looked into my son’s eyes and all of a sudden realized with absolute clarity what I’d been way too blinded by my own sadness to notice since Jax had died. Norman was so much braver than I would ever be.” The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is the first novel by Australian author, Julietta Henderson. When they were ten, Norman Foreman and Jax Fenton made a Five Year Plan. JAX AND NORMAN’S FIVE YEAR PLAN. Edinburgh Fringe 2023: For One Night Only –Norman and Jax –Teenage Comedy Geniuses!!! Steps: 1. Get to the Edinburgh Fringe, baby! 2. Get famous 3. Get rich Norman, fatherless and plagued by psoriasis, had no real friend until Jax turned up at Alverton Community Primary from East London, four years earlier. Jax had a bad boy reputation, but they were soon inseparable; Norman infected Jax with the love of comedy he inherited from his granddad; the one thing their plan hadn’t allowed for, the vital flaw, was Jax dying of an asthma attack just a few months before his twelfth birthday. While no longer a pariah at school (“how weird is it that your best friend has to die before some people decide to be nice to you”), Norman’s grief is profound: “I thought about trying to do a deal with God. Just in case. Because I thought maybe he’d consider swapping one of my eyes, or a couple of arms, or a leg or two for bringing Jax back. Or both eyes and an ear even. I got the deal right down to me being a blind, deaf, no talking torso sitting on the beach and I still decided that would be OK if only I could have Jaxy back sitting next to me” His mum, Sadie is naturally worried for her son, shrinking before her eyes, and misses the larger-than-life Jax too: “I still couldn’t think about Norman standing up on a stage in my father’s moth-eaten jacket without seeing the emptiness around him. All that space that Jax used to fill with his laughter, his noise, his badness, his goodness and his funniness.” Then she notes a change in the Five-Year-Plan on the wall: Edinburgh Fringe Festival –Norman Foreman, For One Night Only Sausages and Gravitas, the Jax Fenton Tribute Show Steps: 1. Look after Mum 2. Find Dad 3. Get to the Edinburgh Fringe The first point squeezes her heart; the second is a surprise (even to Norman, it seems); and the third? She’s determined to make it all happen, even if there’s less than a month until the Festival starts. When Sadie shares the problem with Leonard Cobcroft, the OAP employed as a cleaner by her racist, sexist, misogynistic bully of a boss, under the Age UK employment scheme, she expects commiseration, not action. But she underestimates Len: he’s ex-Army, IT savvy, supremely organised and talented in many fields, thanks to adult education courses. Before long, they’ve departed Penzance, heading north in Len’s (rusty) teal 1971 Austin Maxi, armed with spreadsheets, a laminated agenda, a shoebox of jokes on Post-its, and Google maps: via Barnstaple, Swansea and Bournemouth, checking out father candidates and entering talent contests and open mic opportunities, hopeful of a Performance Slot in Edinburgh. If they can just keep the demon psoriasis at bay, and help Norman develop a sense of timing….. Norman has the gravitas; Jax was the funny one. The closer they get, the more Sadie worries about her fragile boy in front of a critical audience, but Norman reassures her: “The worst thing already happened. Everything already went to hell in a hand basket, so it’s all got to be OK from now on, because nothing else could ever, ever be that bad. You don’t have to worry about me, Mum, honest.” What a wonderful tale!! Except for Sadie’s obnoxious boss, Henderson gives the readers a cast of characters to love, to laugh with, to ache for, to cheer on. It’s surely impossible not to fall in love with a boy like this: “I think maybe all the parts of me that were good were actually made of Jax. And I think about that a lot because I’m pretty sure it’s true.” With a plot that includes dodgy accommodation, dubious venues, and a fanciful Facebook profile, then builds to a hilarious climax involving a bizarre laundry rescue, a daring break-and-enter, chef’s whites and escape on a speeding moped, Henderson’s debut novel is funny, moving, heart-warming and uplifting, and more of this talented author will definitely be welcome. Recommended! This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House UK Transworld.

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  • Charming, witty, sad

    Loved this, the characters are wonderful and fully developed

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