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28 November 2023

The Reading Doctor: Homecoming

Kia ora and welcome to the Reading Doctor, where literary critic and devoted reader Dr Louise recommends books to us on a particular theme, or responds to reader questions. Submit your questions for her here:


For many, Christmas means going home. These novels centre on a return home, whether made reluctantly or eagerly anticipated.

- Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land is a novel made up of nested stories, bound together by an ancient text and characters who discover, in the attempt to create a new and perfect home, the value of the old.

- The long-awaited return of their beloved father is the happy ending of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

- Constant Spry is summoned home by her grandmother, making the journey south to Goshen accompanied by Nanny Smack, the ghost who crochets tomorrow’s sky, in Bloom by Kelly Ana Morey.

- A veteran of the Korean War returns to racist America carrying the trauma of the front lines in Toni Morrison’s novel Home.

- The Gathering, by Anne Enright, describes the return of the nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan to their grandmother’s house for the wake of their wayward brother, carrying festering secrets and warped memories.

- A small Greek island is supposed to be the new home of a young refugee in What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad, the only survivor of a treacherous ocean passage from Syria.

- A family gathers on their ageing parents’ porch to discuss and decide their future care in Anne Tyler’s A Spool Of Blue Thread, spooling back over three generations of family events, secrets, hopes and fears.

- A young woman returns to Sri Lanka, the land of her birth, in Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to investigate the deadly ravages of civil war.

    Got a question for the Reading Doctor? Submit it anonymously here: