Published: 1 October 2018
B-format published 1October 2019
Categories: Contemporary fiction
Katherine Johnson was born in Queensland and grew up alongside the Brisbane River. She holds both arts and science degrees, has worked as a science journalist, and published feature articles for magazines including Good Weekend. She is the author of two previous novels: Pescador’s Wake (Fourth Estate) and The Better Son (Ventura Press). Her manuscripts have won Varuna Awards and Tasmanian Literary Awards. The Better Son was longlisted for both the Indie Book Awards and the Tasmania Book Prize. Katherine lives in Tasmania with her husband and two children.
The award-winning author of The Better Son is back with Matryoshka – a beautifully written and haunting tale of family, secrets, violence and refuge, set against the breathtaking backdrop of Tasmania.
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.
Praise for Matryoshka
A moving reflection on love, motherhood and belonging. Katherine Johnson beautifully shows what it means to be part of a community – and part of a family.’
ANNA SPARGO-RYAN, AUTHOR OF THE GULF
‘Through the lives of the diverse people who inhabit this small Tasmanian community ... Johnson shows us the worst and the best of ourselves.’
MAGGIE JOEL, AUTHOR OF THE SECOND-LAST WOMAN IN ENGLAND
‘At it’s heart, it is also a poignant exploration of our stumbling efforts to seek solace in the world and the ways in which we attempt to overcome dislocation… a fascinating and authentic meditation on the long shadows cast by loss.’
ALICE NELSON, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
‘It’s written in a way that I like to term ‘quiet’: quietly beautiful, quietly atmospheric, quietly powerful, and quietly unforgettable… Forgiveness and love underpin this story, flowing outwards from a beautifully intelligent narrative that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Highly recommended.’
THERESA SMITH WRITES
Listen to the Tuesday Book Club Review here
Other Titles by Katherine Johnson
'The Better Son maps an emotional landscape as shifting and precarious as the limestone country so splendidly evoked here. Katherine Johnson is a sure-footed guide to lives hollowed out by secrets that reach deep into the past.'
MICHELLE DE KRETSER, Miles Franklin Literary Award winner
'A fabulous read: moving, haunting, at times devastating, redemptive, and so evocative of the Mole Creek area.'
VERN FIELD, editor of ISLAND MAGAZINE
'Fans of Alex Miller and Michelle de Kretser will enjoy this deep and imaginative story with nuanced and relatable characterisation.'
BOOKS + PUBLISHING
‘This book will work for readers across generations. Johnson writes of childhood and crystalline recognition of what it is like to be young and coexist with a sibling, the exquisite juxtaposition of love and hate that can come in the single breath.’
‘An Australian writer to watch.’
‘As well as the sharply drawn characters, the brooding Tasmanian wilderness is a powerful character on its own and is well woven into the compelling storyline.’
WEEKLY TIMES MELBOURNE