Next of Kin – by John Boyne – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

I’ve only recently discovered John Boyne who has become a favorite author. And one of the things I like about reading his novels is how different each one is from all the others. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

This one reads like a skillfully constructed suspense novel, where the entire puzzle isn’t clear until the very end of the book. It takes place in the late 1930s, during the reign of King Edward VIII, though the abdication crisis is really more of a backdrop to the family drama.

At its heart, Boyne explores the ways in which family dysfunction can influence events across generations in surprising and unexpected ways. The nature of love and morality are also recurring themes.

Although most of the action involves one generation, the beginnings of the story involve two previous generations of a British aristocratic family, the Montignacs, with extensive holdings and wealth. When Henry, the heir, falls for the wrong girl, Henry’s father sets in motion events that will wind up impacting the children of both Henry and his younger brother, Peter.

John Boyne

Their children (Andrew, Stella, and Owen) and the relationships they have with each other form the foundation of the novel, particularly between Stella and Owen. Also affected are others who come into their orbits. Stella has a fiancee. Owen takes on an employee, Gareth. And their childhood nanny Margaret remains a central part of their lives. Then, layer on top an accidental shooting, large gambling debts, shady political maneuverings, and a couple of sensational murder trials and you get the makings of this engrossing page-turner. You won’t be able to put it down!

More about the author.

You may be interested in my reviews of other novels by John Boyne:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom

A Ladder to the Sky

A History of Loneliness

The Absolutist

The House of Special Purpose