Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

by Kate Morton
Release Date: April 13, 2023
2023 Mariner Books
Kindle Edition; 547 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063020894
Audiobook: B0BWNX2L36
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher 

2.75 / 5 Stars

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 crime that shocked the nation. 

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story.  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; when Jess skims through the book she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime.
My Thoughts
Homecoming is one of those books that I really wanted to love, but in the end, I had to admit defeat.  Don't get me wrong, there is a really good story within these pages, and the written prose, as always, was great, but the presentation was lacking and I don't think the book within a book worked very well in this situation.  
First of all, I had a really difficult time empathizing with any of the characters, especially the grandmother.  I didn't mind Jess most of the time, but even she seemed to be stunted emotionally and I would have liked to have seen some emotional development as she discovered all of her family history and realized her grandmother had been keeping so many secrets from her her entire life. Or even be able to empathize with her as her grandmother lay dying in the hospital.   I did want to see more of Jess's mother Polly, as I felt she was the more interesting character of the two and I did like the mother/daughter dynamic that was being developed throughout the story.  I wish their relationship had been explored a bit more as I think there was so much more to tell, but the author seemed to draw out things that I thought were less necessary and skipped over the more interesting things.

The author chose to use the technique of a book within a book in order to further plot and personally, I don't think it worked.  While I thought it was interesting, it was meant to come across as non-fiction, but unfortunately, it didn't come across that way and I found the scenes to be very unconvincing.  I also found myself wondering how the author (the author within the story) could know so much.  I feel like this is a trend that authors try, and while it can work rather well in horror novels, I don't necessarily feel it works well in all types of genres.  Unfortunately, every time these sections came up, I was thrown out of the story simply because these excerpts read more like fiction than non-fiction. I wish the author had focused more on the generational trauma that these murders had on the family and simply told the story.
 I felt the length of the novel created some major issues with the plot.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good, chunky, historical novel, but not when so much is filler fluff.  Yes, the prose was beautiful and I loved the descriptions of the Australian outback, but when you look at the actual story, so much could have been edited out, and the actual writing style of the story was a bit of a mess. I also had an issue with the many incongruities in the plot, in particular the death of Nora's parents and the entire description of the birth of Nora's baby.  I was so detached from some of these scenes whereas sensitive me, should have been bawling.  It was incredibly easy to figure out the big plot twist, and honestly, the lack of communication between characters is one of those things that drives me crazy as a plot trope. I'm not a huge fan of the telling type of storytelling as opposed to letting the reader figure things out as you go along as I feel it's insulting to a reader's intelligence and this was a big tale of telling.  
Homecoming was a difficult book to get through, but I am glad to see that so many other people loved it.  Personally, I had trouble connecting with the characters and it was very easy to figure out the big plot twist for the mystery.  I found the overall plot to be somewhat convoluted and the story within a story didn't work for this type of book.  I didn't actually mind the flowery prose as I enjoyed the descriptions of the Australian outback, but the author chose to use that style excessively for all aspects of the story which made the overall plot seem messy and murky.  Some interesting themes in this book, but again, not fully explored. I loved The Forgotten Garden, but this one was a miss for me.