Serious Things was published by Sceptre in 2008.
In the early 1990s, at a boarding school still redolent of the days of Empire, two boys form an intense friendship that will shape the course of their lives. Bruno Jackson, the shy and lonely son of British expats, is infatuated by Anthony Blunden, a glamorous, troubling boy who seems to have everything. Taken under the wing of an idealistic English teacher, the boys are encouraged to explore the ‘more serious things’ of life beyond college. But in the hothouse of the school, an imagined slight from their mentor seems of earth-shattering importance, and Bruno soon finds himself caught up in his friend’s fantasies of revenge. Years later, with the memories of that time almost buried, Bruno leads a blameless, uneventful life. The sudden reappearance of Anthony forces him to revisit and re-assess his past – and to decide how far he’s prepared to go to assuage his conscience.
Lyrical, immersive and generously peopled, Serious Things is a tragedy of failed connections and good intentions gone awry. It is about our troubled planet and our responsibilities towards it. It is about the pathology of guilt and how far one might have to go in order to escape it.
“Superbly written, with not a superfluous word, and enriched with wonderfully vivid images”
Murrough O’Brien, The Independent on Sunday
“A finely observed account of pubescent yearnings, which succeeds on every level”
Ross Gilfillan, The Daily Mail
“A very enjoyable book… completely convincing, utterly real… I thought it was a cracking book, a really enjoyable read, and a proper psychological thriller”
Joel Morris, Book Panel, BBC Radio 5 Live
“Intelligent and beautifully written”
Jessica Mann, Literary Review
“Gregory Norminton writes better than anyone about that age when emotions are everything and the most minor events are experienced with a studied gravity. His prose, elegant, precise and astonishingly fluid, registers every heartbeat, capturing with a discreet English irony the complexity of beings. Intelligent, devastating, edifying, this novel has, from the first page, all the makings of a classic”
Jeanne de Menibus, Le Journal du Dimanche
“It is rare enough to find a successful conflation of the personal and the political but to articulate immense issues such as environmental depredation, the culture of narrow self interest and the mendacity of power within a story that stays anchored to its plot and characters without falling into tub-thumping is astonishing… Structured like a thriller, Serious Things is about nothing short of the slow death of the soul and its eventual redemption… Although sodden with a peculiarly English melancholy, it manages to refract Lord of the Flies at times, The Secret History at others, even cast a glance at Dead Poets Society. Norminton’s measured, elegant prose makes beauty and menace sing in perfect harmony. The book is worth reading for his writing on the English countryside alone, while his scaling of the treacherous cliffs of the human heart will take your breath away.”
Neel Mukherjee, The Sunday Telegraph
“To find a homegrown, completely absorbing contemporary novel of a high literary standard seems pretty impossible these days. Gregory Norminton’s Serious Things which came out in paperback this year got fine reviews but still not the attention a work of such quality merits. Here’s a writer who relishes every sentence, and gives it moral weight, and yet still manages to come up with a page-turner.”
Lesley Chamberlain, Prospect
Serious Things was my first novel with a contemporary setting. A crime story of sorts, it has been my most popular work to date – which may be why one respected old schoolteacher of mine called it ‘a pot-boiler’. I leave it for you to decide.
The ecological theme, which I tried to weave into the psychological drama, took me back, in a documentary sense, to the 1990s road protests…
…and on a research trip to the off-grid community on the island of Scoraig in Wester Ross.
My interview for The Independent on Sunday is still available online.
You can buy Serious Things in paperback here.
Buy Serious Things on Kindle.