Thursday, May 04, 2023

Review of Kate Morton's Homecoming, her latest intricate, multi-stranded generational mystery

Large old houses, families haunted by history, and suspenseful multi-stranded plots that reveal shocking truths: these are Kate Morton hallmarks, and nobody writes them better. What’s notable here is how she blends these familiar ingredients into an epic page-turner that offers surprises even for longtime fans.

In 2018, London-based journalist Jess Turner-Bridges flies back to Sydney after learning that her sharp-witted grandmother Nora, who raised her after her mother left, fell from her attic stairs. Nora’s half-conscious mutterings, combined with her own distant childhood memories, prompt Jess to revisit the past.

She’s stunned to uncover accounts of a terrible crime from 1959 in a small town in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, when Isabel Turner and her three oldest children went out for a picnic on Christmas Eve on their idyllic Georgian-style estate and were found dead hours later by a deliveryman. Baby Thea, Isabel’s youngest, had vanished from the scene. The unsolved mystery was explored in a bestselling true-crime account published in America, but Nora had never breathed a word about it or her own connection to it.

The breathtakingly intricate narrative, which intercuts two eras, unfolds from a multiplicity of viewpoints. Throughout this lengthy tale, Morton maintains a tension that has readers weighing potential clues in every line, but she’s always one step ahead with new twists and possibilities. The book-within-a-book device, which circles through Isabel’s eventful final day and the subsequent police inquiry, is masterfully structured and raises even more questions for Jess.

Settings are firmly anchored and contrasted: the promise of postwar new beginnings, the pressures of family life, and the beautiful, wild landscape of rural South Australia, overlaid by ancient secrets and dark tragedy. Along the way, Morton probes mother-child relationships from various angles and examines the power of story itself. This novel is utterly transporting.

Homecoming was published in April by Mariner in the US, and I reviewed it from NetGalley for May's Historical Novels Review. This is Kate Morton's seventh novel; I've read them all, and it's probably my second favorite, after The Distant Hours. The US cover is at the top, the Australian one further down. Read more about how her own life influenced the Australian setting of the book in a New York Times profile.


  1. Kate Braithwaite6:35 AM

    Just started reading this last night. Totally sucked in!