The Kindness

The Kindness

3.27 (630 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

'He followed her eyes skyward to a bird that was falling, turning and turning, like a heart that had leapt free. It fell, and as it did it became a falcon. He was transfixed.'

Julian's fall begins the moment he sets eyes on Julia.

Julia is married and eight years his senior; he is a gifted English student, a life of academia ahead. Ignoring warnings from family and friends they each give up all they have to be together. Their new life in London offers immense happiness, especially after their longed-for daughter Mira is born.

When Julian hears that Firdaws, his boyhood home, is for sale he sets out to recreate a lost paradise for his new family. Once again, love blinds him. It is only when Mira becomes terrifyingly ill that it is impossible for Julia to conceal from him the explosive secret that she has been keeping at the heart of their lives.

Lyrical, haunting and exquisitely rendered, Polly Samson's second novel explores a deception that comes wrapped as a gift, a betrayal clothed in kindness, and asks if we can ever truly trust another. The result is an unforgettable story of love, grief, betrayal and reconciliation, masterfully plotted and beautifully told.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 27mm | 461g
  • Bloomsbury Circus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1408861887
  • 9781408861882
  • 483,457

Review Text

Praise for Perfect Lives: These intertwined, silken stories deftly expose the heart-sickness behind so many of the burnished surfaces of contemporary life John Banville
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Review quote

Praise for Perfect Lives: These intertwined, silken stories deftly expose the heart-sickness behind so many of the burnished surfaces of contemporary life * John Banville * An unexpected combination of romp and classical: thought-provoking, sassy and comforting * Ali Smith * With her effortless prose and unflinching eye, Samson dips beneath the surface of apparently contented, even blessed lives and the result is compelling, disturbing and moving * Maggie O'Farrell * Accomplished stories ... Focusing, sometimes comically, sometimes compassionately, on apparently prospering, well-organised, civilised and contented people, Samson traces tremors of disruption threatening the stability of her characters' relationships and themselves * Peter Kemp, Sunday Times, 2010's BEST READS * To reveal any more of the intricate plot would risk spoiling the many volte-faces of this unsentimental, unflinching yet never depressing novel. The clues are all there, if you can spot them, but the surprises continue until the very last page. Besides this deft mastery of structure, Samson has the rare ability to create characters with whom the reader deeply sympathises, however wrong they are ... Perfect Lives is the ironic title of Samson's last book, a subtly interconnected collection of short stories. The Kindness is similarly cunningly constructed, and similarly shot through with teasing motifs ... 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 * FT Weekend * It may not begin like a thriller, but it produces, without warning, some of the twists and reverses of one ... lush, lyrical prose ... a wringing evocation of grief ... All this Samson recounts while moving dextrously back and forth in time, sustaining a single, seamless narrative, though it's vital for the reader to stay alert. We bask in the charming, genteel, bohemian sensibility of her writing. Woven into it, however, like a sinister black thread, is the heart-wrenching account of Mira's long struggle with cancer. Then, two-thirds of the way through the novel, comes the mother of all twists ... A most satisfying and believable ending. The Kindness is to be read more than once, not merely to enjoy again the beauty of the writing and the considerable insights into human experience, but to test the earlier narrative with the knowledge of what is to come * Independent * Beautifully written and plotted with serpentine cunning, Samson's novel is what might be called a love story for adults: unsentimental, at times harsh, but ultimately uplifting * Mail on Sunday * Secrets and misunderstandings fuel Polly Samson's involving, melancholy and cleverly constructed second novel ... At one point, Samson's skilful sleight of hand makes the reader question much of what they thought they had understood. This is a mature and haunting novel about love and loss that asks if we all, in the end, see what we want to see * Metro * There are some really clever structural tricks to this wistful story. Samson writes beautifully - particularly about nature - and her deceptively simple narrative produces a smart and torrid tale of the consequences of sexual obsession and jealousy * Sunday Mirror * The Kindness is cumulatively addictive: intriguing, cleverly constructed, lyrical without pretension and thoroughly engrossing ... Samson's descriptions of Firdaws and the countryside are particularly transporting, but Julia, understandably, is less keen on this rural idyll, not least because she has to work in London, leaving the childcare to Julian ... We see the same events (a romantic trip to Paris, the purchase of Firdaws, Mira's sickness) from Julia's perspective, filling in some crucial details until, slowly, it all makes sense. A couple of later plot twists do take a leap of faith, but they feel manageable because, by this time, the book is hard to put down. I finished this story of loss, lies and flawed communication at two in the morning, desperate to know the truth. As a second novel, this was really worth the wait * Sunday Times * Samson is a richly sensory writer, beautifully summoning such details as the 'milk fug' of early parenthood, but she stuffs her novel with too much unwieldy, tangled plot. Yet this is still a sumptuous, serious story about how an act of immense love can at the same time be one of terrible betrayal, and how we deceive ourselves as much as we deceive one another * Daily Mail * Family proves far from idyllic in this poetic, sensual story of betrayal and lies. Writer and lyricist Samson's prose is dazzlingly evocative, as she explores how relationships are rarely what they seem * Glamour * Another sublime slice of prose about love * Good Housekeeping * The densely plotted, dynamic domestic thriller - with an English idyll of ivy-covered house, meadow and hammock on the cover * Guardian * A compelling, insightfully told tale that explores the ripple effects of biological attachments * Mail on Sunday * There are some really clever structural tricks to this wistful story. Samson writes beautifully - particularly about nature - and her deceptively simple narrative produces a smart and torrid tale of the consequences of sexual obsession and jealousy * Mail on Sunday * Cumulatively addictive: intriguing, cleverly structured, lyrical without pretension and thoroughly engrossing ... Samson's descriptions of Firdaws and the countryside are particularly transporting ... a couple of later plot twists do take a leap of faith, but they feel manageable because, by this time, the book is hard to put down. I finished this story of loss, lies and flawed communication at two in the morning, desperate to know the truth. As a second novel, this really was worth the wait * Sunday Times * Compelling ... Atmospheric and vividly told, the book is a poignant examination of love, guilt, betrayal and the deception that can lie at the heart of every relationship * Tatler *
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About Polly Samson

Polly Samson is the author of two highly acclaimed story collections and a novel, Out of the Picture, which was shortlisted for the Authors' Club First Novel Award. Her most recent linked story collection, Perfect Lives, was a Sunday Times Fiction Choice of the Year and was read on BBC Radio 4. She has been shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize and The Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She recently wrote the introduction to Daphne du Maurier's The Doll: Short Stories. She has written lyrics for three bestselling albums and was a Costa Book Awards judge in 2007. Polly Samson lives in Brighton.

@PollySamson
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Rating details

630 ratings
3.27 out of 5 stars
5 15% (97)
4 27% (172)
3 33% (209)
2 17% (107)
1 7% (45)
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