Review: The Better Son by Katherine Johnson

The Better Son was an award winning novel before it was even published and it is not difficult to see why. The beautiful prose tells the story of Kip, the younger of two brothers, growing up on a farm in Tasmania in the early 1950s. Father Harold is suffering Post Traumatic Stress following his role in the Second World War, and also appears to hate farming, his wife Jess, and his youngest son with a frightening vindictiveness. By contrast, the older brother Tommy, is considered to be wonderful by Harold, and occasionally comes across as spoiled (and a little vindictive,) though he is not always treated well. One day, Tommy and Kip discover some caves near their farm, and the location becomes their secret hideaway. But tragedy is looming, and one day only Kip will come home. 

Told in third person narrative from the perspectives of Kip and farmhand Squid, the story moves across a number of years. Secrets are revealed slowly, and over time it becomes clear how the lives of each of the characters are shaped by their choices, and the secrets they have kept. At times, I found the scenes featuring Harold very difficult to read, and I often felt for Kip who seemed to be shaped by circumstances that were out of his control. Squid was an interesting character who helped bridge parts of the story together.

The Better Son is an intriguing novel of secrets and lies.


Thank you to Ventura Press for my reading copy.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2016


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