A Terrible Kindness: The Bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club Pick

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A Terrible Kindness: The Bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club Pick

A Terrible Kindness: The Bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club Pick

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Sentences such as “the roast pork … moved from William’s plate, to his mouth, to his stomach easily”, or “Ray’s baby is nestled inside her warm body”, sound like faltering translations, while the description “Aberfan is black, white or grey” will seem cursory to anyone who has seen images of the landslide. The Aberfan disaster is hauntingly made real in the descriptions of the work of kind strangers tasked with a terrible job. As well as William’s gentle, caring nature, I also loved Martin’s cheeky character and the man he became. However, for me, this story lost its way in the middle, the back and forth of the storyline didn't help. My congratulations and thanks to the author for her work, thanks too to the publishers Faber and Faber Ltd andNetgalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide.

This novel addresses some very difficult themes, but author Jo Browning Wroe, uses a deft touch and never strays into over-sentimentality. It was only recently that I had even heard of the Aberfan tradegy, so when I read the blurb I was very intrigued to read this novel. Finally note that the book has something rather coincidentally in common with another of the Observer Top 10 Debut Novelists feature – “Trespasses” by Louise Kennedy also features a main character with the surname Lavery (who also lost their father, has a very difficult relationship with their mother and who ends up working in the family business).

Wroe’s depiction of William is quite brilliant and utterly believable, and her evocation of his work as an embalmer is engrossing, moving – and fascinating, too. I guessed I’d have liked more Aberfan, and less of William (who, btw, for anyone who’s read the book, treats Gloria terribly. The friendships, losses, relationships and family are the core of the story, but underneath it all is the experience that the character has in the first few chapters, and the scars that are carved into him; that of attending Aberfan in October 1966 as a freshly qualified embalmer. For those familiar or unfamiliar – this documentary I found extremely moving, very well made and also very pertinent to the novel.

The more I think about it, the more I struggle to see any reason why Aberfan needed to be part of this story. Rescuers had to pull out the destroyed blackened bodies of children, many of whom had to be identified by scraps of clothing or a hairband.

There are some special bonds like the one with his school friend Martin and his uncle Robert and his partner Howard.

However this book isn’t just about that tragedy, huge parts of it focus on William’s earlier life as a chorister, which I found incredibly fascinating. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with the opportunity to read an ARC of this very special book. I was drawn into William’s world right from the first page, just as I was drawn into the honest beauty of Jo Browning Wroe’s writing. How marvellous it is when a book broadens your horizons, takes you to places you would never envisage yourself going, and provides you with an enjoyable reading experience all at the same time. For me it was about not letting the past consume you and carrying on living your life to the fullest.I know one Puritan family in Wales who had thus stood steadfastly against having a television in their house, but whose resolve crumbled in the face of the availability of immediate, live coverage.

I’ve read reviews criticising the author for using a true life tragedy as the basis for a book, and I can imagine if you live in Wales it must still be awful to think about it, but the whole plot of the book is about William’s PTSD and perhaps a fictitious event of that magnitude wouldn’t be believable? He’s just nineteen and has a bright future with Lavery and Sons, the business run by his uncle Robert, and he’s come top of his class in embalming. It was, in the relatively new media age of the 1960s, one of the first tragedies to unfold directly, hour by hour, into people’s living rooms.The way this was written had me hooked from the 1st page and just knew it was going to be a 5 star read. William’s mother, Evelyn, helpfully informs him, “There’s a madness that comes with grief”, and Martin is similarly educational: “You shut [music] out as if it was the thing that hurt you, when all along, it’s been the thing that can save you. So, from the very beginning, we are aware that William has an unusual job but also that he does it well and that he is a kind, thoughtful young man, who wishes to give the victims, and their families, respect and to do his tasks with care. The book is also I think about characters (in particular William and his mother) that try to simplify difficult and complex issues into their life into a single point of focus and resentment, and adopt a policy of avoidance as well as blame rather than forgiveness (of themselves and others).

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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