Recently I’ve Read … The Kindness by Polly Samson

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The Kindness is, essentially, a family drama transmuted into something altogether more spellbinding by its lyrical prose. Poetically written and full of vivid imagery, the novel is obliquely rendered with a hazy, dreamlike quality. This in turn creates narrative tension: we know that something terrible has happened to these characters and turn the pages furiously in a bid to find out what; all the while being drip-fed tiny details of the story.

Julian is the central character. We see him dealing with the fallout of a devastating event; there is no trace of his wife and child. The novel moves back and forward in time, gradually filling in the gaps. We learn that, some years earlier, Julian fell in love with Julia, a captivating woman eight years his senior. Julian gave up a promising career in academia to be with Julia and, later, to care for her and their daughter Mira.

When Julian’s boyhood home, Firdaws, comes up for sale, he goes all out to recreate the idyll of his childhood for his young family. But, when Mira falls dangerously ill, a long-buried secret threatens to destroy everything.

This is a beautifully written and gripping novel about trust, and the often fine line between kindness and betrayal.

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