Book reviews

I bought Kokomo by Australian author Victoria Hannan despite the cover, which I didn’t like at all. After reading the story and discovering the main themes are unfulfilled wants and desires, I realised why this image and colour scheme were chosen, though and believe they suit the story.

Kokomo was told in two halves. The first half followed Mina, a hardworking copy editor living in London who was hopeful of receiving a much-deserved promotion at work. Mina was also on the brink of starting a love affair with her colleague Jack, when her best friend Kira phoned with the news that Mina’s mother, who had not left her home since the death of Mina’s father many years ago, had unexpectedly left her house in Melbourne.

Mina dropped everything to fly home to Melbourne but when she arrived, found her mother to be uncommunicative and resentful of Mina’s presence.

Mina attempted to reconnect with her old friends but apart from Kira, struggled as most had married and settled down into family life, living very different lives to hers.

Although Mina desperately wanted to be back in London at her job and with Jack, she fell back into the lifestyle she had left ten years ago, going out, getting drunk and making stupid choices about sex with people who she didn’t really want or like.

Her friendship with Kira seemed to be the truest relationship Mina had. Kira’s family and Mina’s were neighbours and they had supported Mina and her mother Elaine after Mina’s father death when Mina was just a teenager. Valerie, Kira’s mother, had continued to look after Elaine after Mina moved to London.

The second half of Kokomo told Elaine’s story and explained the closeness of the relationship between the two families. Elaine’s and Mina’s characters were unexpectedly similar in that their longings shaped their lives.

I found much of Mina and Elaine’s personal behaviour to be incomprehensible and somewhat unlikely, but appreciated the contemporary issues the story raised. These ranged from mental health issues to sexism in the workplace and dealing with toxic relationships, as well as portraying friendships, family relationships, in particular children learning that there is more to their parents than their relationships with their children.

In a warning to my fellow prudes, the first chapter nearly put me off reading the book completely since I had far less interest in the physical description of Jack’s penis than what Mina apparently had. If this level of detail isn’t to your taste either, my suggestion is to read the back cover then skip straight to Chapter Two.

I enjoyed the contemporary Melbourne setting and recognised many of the places Mina visited.

My purchase of Kokomo by Victoria Hannan continues to satisfy my New Year’s resolution for 2021 which is to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (March).

Comments on: "Kokomo by Victoria Hannan" (11)

  1. Well it’s brilliant that you’re managing to fulfil your challenge !

  2. It’s a bit of cheat, isn’t it? Buying books isn’t as big a challenge for me as not buying books 🙂

  3. ha ha!! that would be a challenge too far!

  4. Sorry I’ve been out of touch. I did see your Ham post come through too, and will check that later. I must say I agree with you re this cover. Covers aren’t important if you want to buy a book, but there’s something special about a beautiful cover all the same I think.

    Love your warning too about the first chapter, but you have my intrigued. While I don’t seek such descriptions, I’m now wondering exactly what this one is!

    Anyhow, the subject matter of neighbours, mothers and daughters, and friends, with the themes you mention, make the book sound interesting.

  5. Covers are important! Lisa did a post on these recently and I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
    I’m too prudish to have appreciated the first chapter of Kokomo, it left me feeling squeamish and backing off. If the second chapter had been similar I doubt I would have read on. But as it turned out, it wasn’t and I’m glad I did.
    I like stories about how families, friends and neighbours fit together and think the subject is sometimes trivialised or considered to be unimportant which is odd as in real life these connections are important to most people.
    Happy Easter, Sue, hope the Easter Bunny finds you.

  6. Yes, I agree re families, friends and neighbours Rose.

    And covers are an issue. I’ve written about them before too, or more broadly about book design. Some authors, particularly those bordering commercial and literary fiction, feel ill-served by their covers, but often don’t have a say.

  7. I suppose once the book has been sold to a publisher it becomes their product, although it seems to me that the author should have some say in the cover art even though they aren’t an expert at advertising or sales.

  8. I agree, Rose, but it’s all in the contract! I think confident authors will be a bit forceful, but new ones in particular, can be cowed by their publishers who “know” what’s best. to some degree they do, I suppose, but it must be so disappointing to have a cover you hate.

  9. To be fair, the beauty of the cover is also in the eye of the beholder. And while I’m being fair I should also acknowledge that art should evoke a reaction/emotion and in this case, the cover did! So regardless of whether I liked it or not, by that reasoning the cover of Kokomo is successful.
    And lastly, you’re right, a contract is a contract. I imagine most authors would prefer to have their book published that not.

  10. Thats true,and publishers havd an idea about what beholders like what. I tend to prefer provocative, or abstract, or less-is-more covers, though there are always the exceptions.

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