Book review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

Saturday, April 29, 2023 Permalink

I confess to putting Homecoming by Kate Morton aside every time I’ve opened a new book in the last month or two. Not because I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was and Morton is a favourite author of mine. But because it is huge.

I’m reminded of the meme or joke about someone thinking that a 2.5hr movie on Netflix is too much of a commitment, but they’re more than happy to watch 13 x 1hr episodes of something. I will willingly read a 300ish page book each night for several nights in a row, but picking up a 600 page book seems like a commitment too far. Nevertheless I finally dove in and was relieved (as I knew I would be) that I’d finally indulged.

Book review: Homecoming by Kate MortonHomecoming
by Kate Morton
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on 04/04/2023
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9781760630485
Pages: 640

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

At loose ends in Nora's house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime—a crime that has never been resolved satisfactorily. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find…

Morton’s books are characterised by dual timelines – one in the past and one in the present (ish). Here we switch between 1959 and 2018. I often comment here on the fact I dislike historical fiction, but (weirdly) I’m okay with the then and now combo.

We’re welcomed into the past on New Year’s Day in 1959 with party preparations and happy children. We then leap to Christmas later that year and what comes next is quite shocking, jolting me out of my whimsical reverie.

We then move to the present to meet Jess who travels ‘home’ to see her grandmother Nora after a fall. She learns her grandmother’s had been upset by something and it’s then she discovers her family’s tragic secret. Keen to know more she looks further into the deaths 60 years earlier, unearthing new clues of a mystery not-entirely-solved.

Morton is a master storyteller. It’s only in writing this I realise I didn’t necessarily become particularly attached to Jess so (for me) Morton’s talent is in weaving an intriguing tale rather than creating characters we miss when they’re gone. I’ve mentioned this book is long… (over 600 pages) but it doesn’t drag. I remained interested even though I read less in a sitting than I usually do and this took three or four nights for me to get through. Morton certainly picks up the pace at the end though and packs a lot into the final stages of this book. Perfectly timed in fact.

I perhaps would have liked a little more consideration of the relationships on offer here – between Jess and her mother Polly, and Polly and Nora. They’re fractured and there’s a reason for that (we learn). Perhaps Morton doesn’t delve deeper because she relies on her readers to do so. And of course we have the benefit of hindsight.

This is another great read by Morton, balancing the present and the past; paced perfectly, giving us the answers we need but perhaps don’t want.

Homecoming by Kate Morton was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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