Bloomsbury Publishing 2015
British author Polly Samson’s “The Kindness,” is not a compelling novel but rather a dramatized, ages-old story about a love relationship gone bad. Like a fisherman dangling a worm, the author teases the reader with a promise of an intriguing story yet to come.
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“. . . a sense of mystery to the end . . .”
The narrative skeleton, weighted down with voluminous descriptions of England’s landscapes, details Julian’s life as a promising writer, mesmerized by the beauty of his like-named companion, Julia. Instantly, when he set eyes on her, “on a ridge,” with a hawk perched on her gauntlet, he falls deeply in love. Julia, whose character is never fully developed, is eight years older than Julian, and married to an abusive husband.
After Julia leaves her husband and Julian drops out of college, they move-in together, and they have a child, Mira. In the meantime, Julian’s mother, along with a former girlfriend and his best friend, employ numerous tactics to scuttle the relationship, though, it develops, Julian doesn’t need much help in creating his own obstacles. Julian pushes aside Julia’s career needs when he is determined to repurchase his rural boyhood home.
The front story, besieged with copious flashbacks, centers on the grave illness of daughter Mira and the couples’ vigils at the hospital. And, expectedly, it is during this time when untruths are discovered, and clearly, there are no victors.
Indeed, Samson has a discerning written language, laced with provocative, vivid descriptions. She is able to maintain a sense of mystery to the end where the story actually begins: Julian, alone, drunk and grief-stricken in his childhood home. Once-plentiful photographs of Mira are gone, and Julian rises, “to a morning with no reason for waking.”
Reviewer: Kate Padilla