All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

on May 4, 2023

Kate Morton
Allen & Unwin
2023, 640p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: 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.

Nora has always been a vibrant and strong presence: decisive, encouraging, young despite her years. When Jess visits her in the hospital, she is alarmed to find her grandmother frail and confused. It’s even more alarming to hear from Nora’s housekeeper that Nora had been distracted in the weeks before her accident and had fallen on the steps to the attic—the one place Jess was forbidden from playing in when she was small.

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…

An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth. Above all, it is a beguiling and immensely satisfying novel from one of the finest writers working today.

I’ve said a few times, a new Kate Morton novel is a treat. I’ve only read her last few releases – I was quite late to the party and I do have a significant portion of her backlist to make my way through, several of which I already own and am waiting for a rainy day. Her books are always quite large and they feel daunting before you pick one up. But the thing is, once you start it and sink into the story, for me……I no longer notice the length. The writing is so rich and detailed, the setting so well constructed and the characters so interesting and complex, that everything else always fades away.

This is a dual timeline, set partially in the Adelaide Hills (fun fact: I am visiting that part of the world this month!) in 1959 with the modern day portion being Sydney in 2019. In 1959, Isabel Turner is a mother of four, including a six month old baby. Her husband is mostly absent, pursuing “business ventures” in London (where Isabel is from). She’s left in their grand house in rural South Australia, raising the children. On Christmas Eve in 1959, the utmost tragedy strikes and from there, officers can only come to one horrible conclusion.

In December 2018, Australian-born but London-living Jess is recalled to Sydney when her grandmother has a fall. Her grandmother raised her after Jess’ own mother moved interstate and Jess is fiercely loyal to her and admirable of the amazing woman she was. She raised Jess’ mother alone and has also devoted her time to many women, being mentors and supporters of women in business. When Jess arrives back in Australia she is baffled by the reason her elderly grandmother would’ve been going into the attic when she had a fall, a place she always told Jess to stay away from. In looking for the answers, Jess uncovers a connection to a tragedy from 60 years ago.

Both timelines were so incredibly interesting. The 1959 timeline gives a little background before the discovery of the tragedy by a local man and you get to experience the investigation as it’s undertaken by police from Adelaide, due to the serious nature of it. Morton gives such a clear picture of the small town and its residents, some of the complexities of life, especially for Isabel, brought out to Australia by her new husband, whom she met in London after the war. It would be such a different life, in this isolated area. Although the house is grand, by far the grandest around, it also has a tragic history. One that hadn’t worried Isabel when she arrived, although locals murmur that perhaps it should have, given what happened. Isabel seems exhausted, she’s got help in the way of a housekeeper and a sort of nanny for the young baby but she seems fed up of being left here, by her husband’s constant absences. Especially seeing as he is the Australian (although he grew up in Sydney) and now he seems to spend most of his time in London, Isabel’s former home. After the tragedy, Isabel’s past is dug into, her family and assumptions are made based on multiple times, the case closed but not. The findings not definitive, but nothing else seeming likely.

In the present, we are treated to Jess’ history, her life growing up with her beloved grandmother. We see her grandmother through Jess’ eyes. She is presented as so wonderful, so perfect almost – and I’m sure she was incredibly wonderful to Jess, providing her with every opportunity. It is not until a bit later in the book that we are presented with Jess’ mother Polly’s view and that begins to give some nuance to the character of Nora, Jess’ grandmother and Polly’s mother. That there is much more complexity to her than simply devoted grandmother. It added so many layers to the story and made me look at many things with a different eye….and gave me a little bit of an inkling about something…..

This was a wonderful story, I enjoyed every second of it and the pages just flew by and honestly, that’s all you can ask for when you dive into something like this. I keep thinking of the other Kate Morton novels on my shelf, trying to plan the perfect time to read one when honestly, any time is the perfect time. Despite the length, the pacing was good and I appreciated the way Morton was able to take her time to explore what happened to result in that tragedy of 1959.


Book #96 of 2023

Counting this one towards my 2023 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, hosted by Marg @ The Intrepid Reader. It’s book #7 for the challenge, so I’m over halfway in my goal of 15 books now.

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