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The Kindness
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The Kindness

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by Polly Samson
 

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It's August 1997 and Julian is lost in a medicated haze of grief. His partner, Julia, has removed all traces of herself from Firdaws, their beautiful riverside home, while all that remains of their three-year-old daughter is a single shoe. Unable to work, Julian succumbs to memories: of Julia, of their daughter's illness, and of his own childhood at Firdaws. As

Overview

It's August 1997 and Julian is lost in a medicated haze of grief. His partner, Julia, has removed all traces of herself from Firdaws, their beautiful riverside home, while all that remains of their three-year-old daughter is a single shoe. Unable to work, Julian succumbs to memories: of Julia, of their daughter's illness, and of his own childhood at Firdaws. As the summer days grow hotter, jealousy taunts him and temptation beckons.
The Kindness is a tale of passion and betrayal; of paradise lost and regained, with Julian and Julia cast out in separate, unforeseeable ways. As Polly Samson's intricate plot gives up its painful secrets, this love story is rearranged and remade--and everything must be reconsidered. The result is an unforgettable story, beautifully told.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Sumptuous.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Samson, creates a moving portrait of a family torn by the stress of a sick child--and a sensuous, lyrical account of a failed marriage.” —Publishers Weekly

“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.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Beautifully written, filled with warmth and humor, The Kindness is a powerful novel exploring the complexities of love and the nature of human relationships.” —Booklist

“A haunting story of pleasure, disappointment, and family, one that immerses you into their journey.” —BlogCritics.org

“This is elegant, witty writing, informed throughout by generosity and wise perceptiveness. Dealing with many kinds of love, and with misunderstanding, betrayal, grief and forgiveness, the novel dares to posit, ultimately, the possibility of redemption. It is a book to cherish, to recommend, to return to--and not to lend anyone.” —Financial Times

“In addition to displaying assured prose, Samson's book is precisely plotted.” —The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Haunting . . . A compellingly plotted account of the corrosive power a secret has to destroy the happiest of families." - Daily Mail on BEST BOOKS ABOUT FAMILY SECRETS

"Addictive, cleverly structured and intriguing relationship story of lies and flawed communication." - Summer Book Choice, Sunday Times

Publishers Weekly
05/11/2015
Deception poisons two marriages in Samson’s (Perfect Lives) convoluted he said/she said tale of betrayal and acceptance. Julian, a gifted 21-year-old writer, first relates the tortured unraveling of his life with Julia, the older beauty for whom he falls helplessly in love after her own marriage to a brutish abuser implodes. He and a pregnant Julia ultimately move to Julian’s boyhood home, scraping by with his modestly successful books, until their baby daughter’s illness exposes the secret Julia has been hiding. In Julia’s narration, we learn of her attraction to Julian’s boyhood friend, Karl, the lie she’s willing to hide to protect Julian, and the betrayal she ultimately suffers. “You’d think it would be hard to remove every trace of yourself from a life, but really, it isn’t,” Julia says. Their daughter, Mira, doesn’t escape unscathed from this collection of sullen adults. Samson, creates a moving portrait of a family torn by the stress of a sick child—and a sensuous, lyrical account of a failed marriage. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
2015-04-28
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781632863904
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
03/22/2016
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
653,425
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Polly Samson is the author of two story collections and two novels, and has contributed lyrics to two Pink Floyd albums, including the chart-topping The Division Bell, and two solo records from David Gilmour. She has been shortlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award, the V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize, and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Samson lives in Brighton.
www.pollysamson.com
@pollysamson

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The Kindness 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
The Kindness by Polly Samson is one of the worst books I have read this year. The book starts in 1989 with Julia married to Chris. Chris has been away working and Julia (who is twenty-nine) has been having an affair with Julian (who is twenty-one and a working on his Ph. D. in English Literature). When Chris finds out he becomes nasty and abusive. Julia is pregnant and leaves her husband for Julian. Then the book skips to 1997 and Julian is living at Firdaws. Firdaws was his childhood home and he was happy when the current occupants put it up for sale. He loved this home and was delighted to be living in it again (he does not seem to notice that Julia does not want to live in the country and prefers London). Julia had a miscarriage and it took them four years to get pregnant again. They had Mira Eliana. Mira ends up sick with a tumor. She needs cancer treatments and then surgery. During this time the two do not communicate very well (and Julia makes many incorrect assumptions). The book jumps around during this section (flashbacks) telling the story from Julian’s perspective (how they met, their friends, lack of communication during Mira’s illness). Julian is mostly drunk during this section clutching a shoe (Mira’s). About two hundred pages later we get to Julia’s side of the story in 2002. Julia is now living in the United States with her husband (this would be her third) and two children (Mira and Ruth). We get to find out what happened between Julia and Julian (from Julia’s perspective) and the lies she told Julian (her “kindness” is very cruel). Then the book jumps to 2012 for the conclusion with Mira coming to Firdaws. The book does not tell the story in chronological order. It jumps around so you are never quite sure what is going on. The Kindness is very choppy and confusing. I also found it to be very predictable (expected) and sluggish (like slogging through a mud pit). I give The Kindness 1 out of 5 stars (really deserves a zero). I just did not find this book enjoyable (and it really did sound good). I received a complimentary copy of The Kindness from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.