If you’re into hidden caves, environmental conservation, family secrets, and a great yarn, then The Better Son by award-winning Australian author, Katherine Johnson, is the book for you.
The Better Son falls under the genre of literary fiction and was awarded The University of Tasmania Prize (Tasmanian Literary Awards 2013), People’s Choice Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Writer (Tasmanian Literary Awards 2013) and The Varuna Harper Collins Manuscript Development Award 2013.
Inspired by the true story of two young boys who discovered one of Tasmania’s most popular caves in 1906, The Better Son tells the story of Kip and his older brother Tommy. Their discovery of Kubla Khan offers the boys an escape into a magical, secret cave world. Underneath the rural town of Mole Creek, Kip and Tommy are free to discover a new world free from the abuse of their father and difficult home life. Kip’s life is soon turned upside-down however when Tommy goes missing in the Kubla Khan. The tragedy reverberates throughout the rest of Kip’s childhood and into his adult life. Will he ever be able to come to terms with the secrets of his boyhood or will he be doomed to repeat the mistakes of his father?
Johnson has written a sensitive, poetic piece of fiction which opens with an air of tragedy and mystery. The Better Son will induce readers to reflect on changes in agricultural practices; the effect war has on the community; power relationships within families; euthanasia; and the need to protect and conserve natural wonders such as the Mole Creek caves. Above all, readers will ponder how fear can shape lives and make the secrets that ultimately destroy us, a necessity.
I loved the symbolism of both the cover and title. This is definitely a book I would pick up if I hadn’t been so lucky to receive a copy. Readers who enjoy contemporary Australian fiction will thoroughly enjoy this novel. I congratulate Johnson on her exquisite, poetic writing throughout The Better Son. A fine read.
Thank you to Ventura Press for providing a copy of The Better Son in exchange for an honest review.