Kokomo by Victoria Hannan review – anticipated debut lives up to the hype

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan review – anticipated debut lives up to the hype

Victoria Hannan’s Kokomo is one of the most highly anticipated debuts of the year, after having won the 2019 Victorian premier’s literary award for an unpublished manuscript. It does not disappoint. Centred on the story of a mother and daughter trapped in a cycle of grief and failed communication, Kokomo places Hannan alongside acclaimed Australian novelists such as Tara June Winch and Melanie Cheng, who have an art for building meaningful narratives out of the emotional lives of their characters. The book opens with the most poetic description of an erect penis that I have ever come across – a confronting entry point to a novel for the average reader, but one that speaks to Hannan’s ability to simultaneously unsettle you and draw you in through an intriguing and unusual style. Throughout the novel, she uses odd images to disrupt the flow, and jolt the reader out of complacency: a dog aggressively humping the protagonist’s leg during an emotional reunion; a potential boyfriend first appearing at a costume party dressed as Hilary Clinton, and referred to as Clinton for pages afterwards. The penis from page one belongs to Jack, a colleague of protagonist Mina, who has been living the past seven years in London. She has been attracted to him for some time, and the novel starts on the night of their first romantic encounter – which is interrupted by an urgent phone call from her best friend back in Australia. Mina’s mother, Elaine, has unexpectedly left her house after eleven years ...
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