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Thursday 10 November 2016

Review: The Life and Loves of a He Devil

Posted in: Books
By Jay Bennie - 16th November 2014

The Life and Loves of a He-Devil
Author: Graham Norton
Hodder books

This is the first Graham Norton life story book I have read. His TV chat show presence is undeniably entertaining and compelling but just a tiny bit overpowering for my taste, so even more Norton has always felt like it could be overkill.

But I took a deep breath and waded in, at first unimpressed. It's a collection of bits and pieces and as such could have been unstructured with a thrown together feel due to a lazy kind of "think of a few topics and bang on about each of them for a bit" format. The appalling lack of punctuation in parts of the book at also made it initially feel like something tossed off into a dictaphone on successive car trips between home, studios and glittering social events.

But Norton's gentle candour, surprisingly warm personality and general lack of artifice save The Life and Loves of a He Devil from being a paint by numbers effort.

In eight chapters with headings such as Dogs, Ireland, Divas,  Booze and Men he kind of chats around the subject with a loosely structured candour that makes The Life and Loves of  He Devil an easy book to slip into and, as the pages whiz by, a really good read.

Of course his book persona could be just an extension of his on-screen persona and therefore both could be manufactured, an act. But somehow I don't think so... and it's the chapter on the men in his life that signals that what you see with Norton is pretty much what there is.

He disarmingly runs through his experiences each of the men with whom he has attempted a relationship. In frankly summing up why each relationship has failed he does a fairly candid warts and all  rundown of what happened from first glances to pack up and go. It's a testament to his charm and human approach to life that no names appear to have been changed and yet none of the past lovers detailed here seem to have objected... unless the are screaming women's mag headline lurking in the near future.

There are heaps of annecdotes in every chapter, behind the scenes stories of celebs and shows and broadcasters. But there's also a genuine and disarming warmth shining through, especially when he talks about his dogs, his inability to form a lasting relationship (except with his dogs) and his renewed sense of Irishness and home.

If you enjoy Norton's TV chat show antics, and his huge viewer figures around the world imply that you probably do, then this is the book for you.  It seems to reveal that, setting aside the need to be bigger than life to reach out and grab the attention, hearts and minds of the average telly viewer, Norton in real life is just a less hyper version of the high-octane campily gay entertainer we see on screen.

And by reading this book it's possible to understand just why he is so successful... his public persona is no act, he's not straining to maintain something artificial and made for media. His personality, life and zest for life are  real, his sense of the ridiculous comes from within, not from a room full of gag writers.

What you see on the Graham Norton TV shows is the showbiz magnification of the man you meet in this book. That's quite cool... and rather heartwarming.

- Jay Bennie

Jay Bennie - 16th November 2014

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