Being Cruel to be Kind

Polly Samson
Bloomsbury Circles, RRP $29.99
May 2015

the_kindness_4Last year I wandered to the cinema with my housemate, and regular movie viewing buddy, to watch the film adaption of the latest book sensation Gone Girl. I was breaking my own rules of not reading before watching but I didn’t think it would matter so much as, one: rules were made to be broken, and two: I don’t read much in the crime or thriller genre anymore. Or so I said then.

The movie of Gone Girl was actually really absorbing (colour me surprised) and it got me thinking about dipping my toe back into what I label ‘twisty’ fiction. Though not technically crime or thriller, The Kindness by Polly Samson fits into the purview of the Edie-created genre of ‘twisty’ fiction and so down the rabbit hole I went emerging a very happy reader.

The main narrator of The Kindness is Julian, a broken father, who has lost his only daughter to a childhood illness and in the process split from his partner Julia. Julian is pulled back into the past repeatedly to relive different events from his relationship with Julia, and the development of Mira’s illness. From the hints dropped in the blurb the reader is always on guard for the twist as they journey through Julian’s memories, memories that are on the one hand rose-tinted, on the other bitter.

For a book like The Kindness one must avoid those pesky things called spoilers as much of the joy of the read is in the incremental discovery of the story. So I must be vague in the specifics while I am entreating you to read this book. I can tell you that Samson’s writing style is engaging and smooth to read. And that the world of The Kindness is vivid and multi-layered with strong character voices, especially Julian’s narration as a world weary man reflecting on himself as a young man. The characters are none of them completely lovable, nor completely hateable and some of them, actually, all of them except the children, behave in ways that range from irritating to reprehensible, no matter what their justification.

Though more understated in both emotion and action than Gone Girl, The Kindness has the same exquisite building of tension. This is the result of beautiful pacing that drives the reader to the point where the story cannot be put aside—even if the book is put down, the story is still somewhere in the back of their mind twisting back and forth until the ending can be read.

My only dislike, or more a feeling of disquiet, about this book is a single dangling thread at the very end of the novel that leaves open a door—a door that I think should stay firmly shut—these characters have been through quite enough, thank you.* Otherwise, if you are a fan of contemporary fiction that is beautifully written and delicately constructed then The Kindness might just be the next book for you.


*Spoilers darling, spoilers.

About Edie Hawthorne

Wishes she could read more than she does.
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