Review of The Homecoming by Anna Enquist

Elizabeth Cook

The Homecoming by Anna Enquist

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to like this book. Having grown up in Australia, with Captain James Cook so much a part of the history of the land (whether this is viewed as for good or for bad) I was really looking forward to seeing how the life of his wife – a woman whose life was mostly spent in waiting for the return of her husband from sea – would be portrayed in the novelistic form. It was a promising premise. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.

The main issue with the book is that Elizabeth’s life is mostly a passive one. She waits. She waits for Cook to return home, she waits for the birth of her children. And even this can be portrayed in a way that is engaging to read. But instead, we have someone who becomes unlikable because most of her internal thinking is resentful, impatient and angry. It does not make her a pleasant character to spend a lot of time with in reading her story.

It is not the way I would have liked to have seen her portrayed. She suffered devastating losses – losing not only her husband but all of her children to various tragedies – but by the end of the book (and knowing something of her history before I started it), I no longer cared. This is a pretty damning indictment of a book that held so much promise.

The inconsistencies in the way she acted were also incredibly frustrating. After obsessing about the way in which her husband died, her desire to discover the truth, it seemed incredible to me that she would then not read the documents that were given to her immediately rather than hiding them away.

The book also suffered because the author was keen to, if I can put it this way, “show off” the amount of research she had done. There was a lot of throw away comments that were entirely not needed – especially as the book was already feeling overlong to read.

The long and the short of it, is that this is a book that I came close to abandoning a number of times. Yet I persevered through because I had already given so much time to it, and I really hate not finishing books that I started. But for a book that had such a promising premise, it really was a disappointment. I think Elizabeth Cook deserved a better portrayal than what we were given here.

View all my reviews

Published by Deborah Siddoway

Dickens enthusiast, book lover, wine drinker, writer, lover of all things Victorian, and happily divorced mother of two lovely (and very tall) boys.

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