Book review: ‘Kokomo’ by Victoria Hannan

One conversation … I’ve come all this way. One conversation is all I want.

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I was lucky to be on Twitter and put my virtual hand up at the time when Hachette announced a few uncorrected proof copies of this book were available. I had no idea what this yet-to-be published book was about, but that’s how I like it – dive right in and go wherever the author takes me.

Blurb on the back

While living in London, Mina receives an urgent call from her best friend back in Melbourne and her world is turned upside down. Mina’s agoraphobic mother, Elaine, has left the house for the first time in twelve years. Mina drops everything to fly home, only to discover that Elaine will not talk about her sudden return to the world, nor why she’s spent so much time hiding from it. Their reunion leaves Mina raking through pieces of their painful past in a bid to uncover the truth.

My thoughts

Why did Elaine stay inside the house for twelve years? Why did she make the choices she made throughout her life? Like Elaine’s daughter Mina, I was perplexed.

We begin the story in London, where Mina has spent seven years establishing herself in the advertising industry. The London pubs, nightlife, share accommodation, late nights working on advertising ‘pitches’. That corporate ladder is so real I can almost feel the rungs.

I’m then transported to what I clearly see is an outer Melbourne, and very Australian, suburb as Mina returns to her childhood home. Here she’s forced to compare her chosen life path to those of her old friends as she stumbles across them.

Kokomo has some great descriptive writing which flows easily and strongly anchors mood and place. Here is an example showing how Mina feels when she first re-enters her childhood home:

She felt the silence draw up around her like floodwater. She wades down the hall. The striped green wallpaper dotted with pink roses gave her the impression she was in a prison designed by Laura Ashley.

Mina now begins the process of untangling the complicated relationship with her mother. At first I don’t want Mina to pick too much at Elaine, in case uncovering the truth is too uncomfortable for all of us.

For much of this book I didn’t understand Elaine’s choices. But then drawing together all the insights into her life, which are scattered perfectly throughout the narrative, I started to understand her motivations. Kokomo has great character development and portrayal.

This book gave me something to think about. Two weeks after reaching ‘The End’ Kokomo is not yet done with me – I’m still holding onto hopes for Mina and Elaine’s future. If author Victoria Hannan wanted me to be invested in her characters, she certainly succeeded.


Published by: Hachette

299 pages

Author: Jen Pritchard

Creatively bashing with the keyboard and camera. Treechanger, nature-bather, sustainability-aimer, reader/writer.

2 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Kokomo’ by Victoria Hannan”

  1. Great review! I put this on my ‘to-read’ list a while back but didn’t remember what it was about (maybe I picked it because of the mental health theme?) Anyway, your review has definitely gotten me interested in reading it.


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