The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman – Julietta Henderson

Published by: Bantam Press
Pages: 311
Date released: 01/04/2021
Date read: 31/05/2021

What do you get when you cross a painfully awkward son, lofty comedic ambition and a dead best friend?


Norman and Jax were a legendary comedic duo in waiting. They had a plan to take them all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe in just 5 years’ time. But when Jax dies before they turn twelve, Norman decides a tribute act for his best friend just can’t wait…so he rewrites their plan:

  1. Look after mum
  2. Find Dad
  3. Get to the Edinburgh Fringe

Sadie knows she’s never going to win Mother of the Year, and not knowing exactly who her son’s father is doesn’t help. But when she finds Norman’s new plan, all she wants is to see her son smile again…So they set off on a pilgrimage to Edinburgh, making a few stops to find Norman’s dad along the way.

Do you ever get that book that when you read it, you decide it’s not for you and you aren’t enjoying it, but when someone asks you why, what’s wrong with it, you don’t actually have an answer, because there’s nothing seemingly wrong with it at all? Well, this is my one.

In a nutshell, we follow 12-year-old Norman Foreman, who after the death of his best friend Jax, decides to enter the Edinburgh Fringe festival, as he and Jax had previously planned to do when they were older. Norman, his mother Sadie, and a new friend – octogenarian Leonard – travel from Penzance to Edinburgh, trying to find Norman’s father along the way.

Sounds exciting, yes? I just found it slow. At about halfway through, I considered putting it down because I promised myself that life was too short, and my bookshelves too full, to spend time reading a book you’re not enjoying, but I asked around and was told to persevere with it. And considering all the reviews I’d read were giving it 4 or 5 stars, I thought I must be missing something.

Okay, I admit, I did enjoy it more as it went along, but I just felt, bizarrely given the premise, nothing was happening, when in hindsight, actually quite a lot was happening. I felt it was quite repetitive, a bit stretched out, and at times, just glossed over the things I felt mattered more than the road trip itself.

Norman’s grief over losing his best friend seems stilted and could have been explored more. I don’t know how a twelve year old copes with grief, but apart from him realising he’s laughing again, this wasn’t explored deeply enough for me. Also, there’s something clearly going on with Leonard (I won’t spoil it by saying what exactly) and his wife Iris, but this is only touched upon and when the big finding-out happens near the end of the book, it’s not really followed up or discussed afterwards. And then finally, it’s clear Sadie isn’t 100% healthy, and apart from one scene with a doctor, this again is not really followed up on or expanded upon. To me, they all seemed unnecessary satellites around a main story, and if they’re not going to be explored, do they really add anything to the story?

I’ve not seen any other reviews that are less than favourable for this book, so maybe it isn’t the book. Maybe it’s just one of those books that just isn’t for me. And that’s okay. It won’t stop me exploring other books by Julietta in the future as there’s a lot of promise.

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