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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

Review < Back

The Kindness - Polly Samson’s sensuous tale of family tragedy

Sunday 29th March 2015

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Polly Samson’s last book, Perfect Lives, was a collection of stories whose characters were tangentially connected to one another, its title freighted with heavy irony. The Kindness, her second full-length novel, is also structured as interlocking stories, told in four parts that span 23 years, their narratives moving between perspectives and slipping from past to present as each throws new light on the preceding section, so that the full picture is only understood towards the end. This title, too, is ambiguous; The Kindness is a novel about the unforeseen consequences of our decisions, even the most generously well-intentioned.

The brief first section introduces Julian and Julia in 1989, at the beginning of their relationship: an idyllic encounter on sunlit downs as Julia flies her hawk and waits for her younger lover. But anything that appears idyllic in Samson’s fiction is soon undercut; the price for Julia’s happiness is the brutality of her husband when he discovers her infidelity...

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