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Matryoshka Paperback – 1 October 2018
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When Sara Rose returns to live in her recently deceased grandmother’s Tasmanian cottage, her past and that of her mother and grandmother is ever-present. Sara’s grandmother, Nina Barsova, a Russian post-war immigrant, lovingly raised Sara in the cottage at the foot of Mt Wellington but without ever explaining why Sara’s own mother, Helena, abandoned her as a baby.
Sara, a geneticist, also longs to know the identity of her father, and Helena won’t tell her. Now, estranged not only from her mother, but also from her husband, Sara raises her daughter, Ellie, with a central wish to spare her the same feeling of abandonment that she experienced as a child.
When Sara meets an Afghani refugee separated from his beloved wife and family, she decides to try to repair relations with Helena – but when a lie told by her grandmother years before begins to unravel, a darker truth than she could ever imagine is revealed.
Matryoshka is a haunting and beautifully written story about the power of maternal love, and the danger of secrets passed down through generations.
About the Author
- Publisher : Ventura Press (1 October 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1925384632
- ISBN-13 : 978-1925384635
- Dimensions : 15.5 x 2.6 x 23.5 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Sara Rose has recently separated from her husband in Brisbane. Sarah’s grandmother, Nina Barsova, has recently died and left her cottage to Sarah. Sarah decides to return to Hobart with her daughter Ellie. She needs space in which to think about the future, and where better than the cottage in which she was raised by her grandmother at the foot of Mount Wellington. But returning to Hobart raises other issues for Sara. She is estranged from her mother, who has refused to tell her who her father was. And while Nina raised Sara lovingly, she has never known why Helena abandoned her. Sara is a geneticist: these gaps in her self-knowledge matter, and she would like some answers. This is even more important now: she may be separated from her husband, but she wants her daughter to know him.
As Sara settles into life in Hobart, she meets a number of men who have travelled to Australia by boat seeking refuge and who are waiting to have their status as refugees determined. One of those men, Abdhul, is an Afghani whose wife and children are in Pakistan. Sara befriends Abdhul and tries to help him. Sara’s friendship with Abdhul leads her to take tentative steps towards establishing a relationship with her mother. But there are family secrets to be uncovered as well.
For me, the major themes of this novel are identity, belonging and the impact of family secrets. Sara wants to find out who her father is and why her mother abandoned her. Abdhul wants a place of safety, and to be reunited with his family. Sara’s past contains secrets, some of which will be painful. And what can I say about the plight of those, such as Abdhul, who seek refuge in this country? I enjoyed this novel because of the setting, and because Ms Johnson raises some important albeit uncomfortable issues. Those issues for me include: just how important is the past in shaping the future? How do our perceptions of those around us guide our responses to their needs? How easy is it to erect the ‘us’ and ‘them’ barriers?
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster (Australia) for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
I'm really not sure what to make of this book. It definitely raises some important issues, the wait time for visas for refugees and the public perceptions of them. Katherine Johnson has some salient points to make and some of the characters are well drawn, the friendship between Sara and Abdhul is particularly sympathetic. However other characters seemed stereotypical and the love interest was like a cardboard cut-out. I did start out invested in this story, but found my interest waning the further into it I got. It's not a bad book by any means, it just didn't hit the mark for me.
My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster (Australia) for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.