THE KINDNESS by Polly Samson


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A tricky tale of deceptions—some well-meant—and infidelities winds together an attractive woman’s fractured love life and an open-hearted man’s intense attachment to a child.

Passions run deep in noted British writer Samson’s U.S. debut, a novel which opens with the brutal end of Julia's marriage to Chris and her escape into the arms of her younger lover, gifted literature student Julian. Julian will drop out of college to support Julia when they discover she's pregnant, though a miscarriage follows. Julian’s subsequent life as a writer, Julia’s as a landscape designer, their move to an idyllic cottage called Firdaws where Julian spent his childhood, the birth of their daughter, Mira, and the child's sudden, terrible illness are just a few of the ensuing events, narrated by Samson in four acts spanning 23 years and conveyed from various perspectives. While the first and last sections are brief, the middle two are expansive, the second verging on baggy, allowing the author ample space for a looping narrative that repeatedly tantalizes the reader about events and expectations, moving back and forth within the story’s timeline and delivering the facts in sly drips at unexpected intervals. The technique is provocative, as are some of the plot swerves—a car crash; a withdrawal into silence for many years; an assumption of adultery—all of which play crucial roles. With its sensuous prose and blend of romance, disappointment, amazing sex, and exquisite domestic interiors, the novel hovers somewhere between conventional commercial fiction and something rather more ambitious.

Broken relationships and damaging silences, presented from deliberately misleading angles, add up to a readable, clever, teasing, but naggingly overcomplicated story.

Pub Date: July 21st, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63286-067-5
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2015


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