Book Review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

About the Book:

The highly anticipated new novel from the worldwide bestselling author of The Clockmaker’s Daughter, a spellbinding story that begins with a shocking crime, the effects of which echo across continents and generations.

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959:

At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek in the grounds of a grand country house, a local man makes a terrible discovery. Police are called, and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most baffling murder investigations in the history of South Australia.

Many years later and thousands of miles away, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for nearly two decades, she now finds herself unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and is seriously ill in hospital.

At Nora’s house, Jess discovers a true-crime book chronicling a long-buried police case: the Turner Family Tragedy of 1959. It is only when Jess skims through its pages that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this notorious event – a murder mystery that has never been satisfactorily resolved.

An epic story that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, how we protect the lies we tell, and what it means to come home. Above all, it is an intricate and spellbinding novel from one of the finest writers working today.

Published by Allen & Unwin

Released 4th April 2023

My Thoughts:

I am a long-time fan of Kate Morton, having first started reading her books when she was a debut author releasing The Shifting Fog, which perhaps, for nostalgic reasons, remains my favourite of hers. This latest release, Homecoming, was much anticipated for me. It’s written in Kate’s usual dual timeline style with several perspectives offered to enhance and complete the storytelling. It’s not as historical as is Kate’s usual though, she only goes back to the 1950s in this one, so we are looking at a story that is only a generation ago for the characters.

There is much within this novel for book lovers. In fact, much of the story rests upon a love of books for several of the characters. This is always a hook that catches me, in any novel, books about books, it’s just so wonderful when that love an author has for books and reading comes across so strongly, woven into the narrative and forming an essential part of a character’s personality.

‘They got to talking. Reading shapes a person. The landscape of books is more real, in some ways, that the one outside the window. It isn’t experienced at a remove; it is internal, vital. A young boy laid up in bed for a year because his legs refuse to work and a young girl on the other side of the globe, sent to boarding school because her parents had both died, had led completely different lives – and yet, through a mutual love of reading, they had inhabited the same world.’

The story opens with a shocking crime that has remained a mystery for decades. The main character within the contemporary storyline, Jess, stumbles upon this when she returns home to Sydney from London on account of her grandmother having an accident and being hospitalised. Jess is Nora’s next of kin, despite Jess’s mother, Polly, Nora’s daughter, still being alive. The contemporary family has secrets as thick as their descendants. Bedside murmurings and the discovery of a true crime book about her family leads Jess down a research path she becomes more and more determined to follow.

Nora was a character who we only ever know through other’s memories of her. She’s in hospital when Jess arrives back home, unresponsive, and dies shortly after. We get to know Nora through the memories of Jess and Polly, which vary greatly, along with the historical account of her included in the true crime book and subsequent interview notes provided to Jess later in the story, pertaining to the old family crime. She was a chameleon of a character, my opinion of her varied often. She was written in such a clever way, but in the end, she became to me a character whose actions reeked of self-interest and whose lies had caused immeasurable pain to members of her own family and beyond.

Homecoming is a story where its title speaks volumes for its theme. The idea of home, what makes a home, what it means to come home after a long time away, and how being absent from your home can sometimes idealise it to the point that when you do finally return, it’s not what you remembered and doesn’t conjure up the same feelings. The same home can also be something vastly different to its various custodians. I appreciated the way Kate returned to this theme throughout the story, it resonated with me as I have felt that deep longing of homesickness and understood the thematic intent instinctively.

‘Standing here now, looking across the valley towards the facing hill, Jess could imagine how homesick Isabel must have felt at times. She herself had been thinking about ‘home’ a lot. Home, she’d realised, wasn’t a place or a time or a person, though it could be any and all of those things: home was a feeling, a sense of being complete. The opposite of ‘home’ wasn’t ‘away’, it was ‘lonely’. When someone said, ‘I want to go home’, what they really meant was that they didn’t want to feel lonely anymore.’

Homecoming is a long and winding novel, lush with descriptive prose and intimate characterisation. I will admit, that despite enjoying it thoroughly, I felt the weight and length of it at times. It’s a fine balance with very long novels, isn’t it? What is long enough to stand as a treat in these days of increasingly quick reads, and what is so long that you feel daunted by its page count. Homecoming is a must read for fans of Kate Morton, many are already calling it her best yet. I highly recommend it but also recommend you pick it up when you have the time and space to really sit with it. It’s not a novel to read in short bursts.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

  1. The length of modern novels is an interesting issue. I guess when many people only read one book a year they want it to be a long one for the summer holidays. But for readers like us, length can be a bit offputting…

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all, the horror of only reading one book a year!!! Lol.
      I have a friend who has spoken of this with me in terms of value. She said before she owned a Kindle, she’d always buy the thickest books to get the best reading value. Now, with her Kindle, length is irrelevant and no longer linked to cost for her.
      I used to like a big book more than I do now. I put it down to an eagerness to read more variety than just be stuck within the same book for the same time it takes to read three or four.


      • I agree, I can’t imagine what it would be like to read only one book a year. Or to live with someone who only read one book a year…
        For me it’s not so much length as commitment. If I can romp through it, it’s fine, except that I don’t always find that kind of book very satisfying. But a long book that it’s too complex to read in bed, that means I need to take notes to get the connections and so on, and that I need to make time for in my day… I’m less keen on those.

        Liked by 1 person

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