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Book review: Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I have to admit that the first page got my attention, describing in vivid detail a full-frontal performance by the protagonist’s workmate.

Victoria Hannan’s debut novel, Kokomo, is certainly easy to read. It is about Mina’s return to Australia from London after she discovers her mother has left her house for the first time in years.

The homecoming holds an element of nostalgia for Mina, as she reconnects with the friends of her youth, including those who live across the road and became family when she was growing up.

However, this is certainly no story of happy families, and it was the gritty and painful reality underlying this story that I found difficult to stomach.

Central to the novel is a love story, but it is one that is full of deception. If you approach the story with the belief that love is a force and end in itself, you might not mind.

However, I struggle to believe that the love that was central to the story (I won’t tell who they are for the spoiler risk) was believable or worth the betrayal.

It all just left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was disappointed in the direction this story took.

Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about Mina’s experience of sexism in the workplace in London, and of the joys and pain of reconnecting with old friends. I found her relationship with the family over the road, especially her best friend, to be beautiful and to ring true.

I also liked the reflection of our times, with Mina’s reliance on social media and travels around familiar parts of Melbourne. I could easily imagine her sitting in its cafes and stumbling across faces from her past.

It was a shame that the sections of beauty, joy and sadness were underpinned by a secret that I didn’t believe to be in any way worthy of the characters.

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