January 19, 2023 at 4:32 pm #6716
Hello and welcome to the first book choice of the Medina Post-Books Reading Group.
A Terrible Kindness has been picking up great reviews everywhere, from the tabloids to the broad-sheets. The book goes straight into the 1966 Aberfan landslide disaster, a harrowing evocation of time and place. But don’t let this put you off, it’s a well written uplifting read. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and observations.
PaulFebruary 5, 2023 at 5:25 pm #6799
I’ll kick things off. I really was pulled through this book at great speed. A wonderful plot full of exceedingly well drawn characters. I found tears running down my face on a number of occasions, most notably the last few pages.
Topics for discussion:
I felt that the young William Lavery had a self-awareness far beyond his years which stretched my credulity a bit too far, what do others think?
I’m not sure the plot benefitted from jumping about from past to present, it felt like a device that was used for the sake of it, would a linear narrative have been as effective?
February 5, 2023 at 5:27 pm #6801
- This reply was modified 10 months ago by paul armfield.
I thought this might be of interest:
A Letter from Jo Browning Wroe
In hindsight, living the first twelve years of my life in the grounds of a crematorium, with hearses rolling past our kitchen window every twenty minutes, I may have been more naturally inclined than others to get up close and personal to the world of embalming. Just as my sister and I knew to jump
over, not on, the blue-grey scattered ashes, these softly spoken men in long black coats were part of life. I saw and understood, long before I could articulate it, that their role was to alleviate distress and that they did this with respect, gentleness and a sense of duty.
‘I saw and understood, long before I could articulate it, that their role was to alleviate distress and that they did this with respect, gentleness and a sense of duty.’
Decades later, when I came across an account of the embalmers’ role in the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster, I had an immediate, emotional response to want to tell their story. The issue was never whether there was a story to be told, but whether I could tell it well enough, whilst also respecting the people of Aberfan.
Inevitably this is a book with moments of extreme sadness, a state of being we’ve all become more attuned to of late, I think.
‘Ultimately this is, I hope, a story about family – those we’re born with and those we make – and the extraordinary power of love and friendship to restore and sustain us.’
Yet because as a child I experienced the funeral business as palpably kind, suffused with keen senses of humour, I very much hope these qualities also flavour the story. Ultimately this is, I hope, a story about family – those we’re born with and those we make – and the extraordinary power of love and friendship to restore and sustain us.
Jo Browning WroeFebruary 22, 2023 at 4:31 pm #6911
First, I’m very happy that Paul chose this book to start us off. If it’s correct that reading is a form of escapism, it is also right to say that reading allows us to step into the shoes of others and see life from new perspectives. And getting a glimpse of the world through the eyes of an embalmer is not one I’d previously imagined. This, then, is an element of the book that I would like to canvas opinion on. (For me, it was certainly eye-opening.)
As for what Paul has written above, I must say I heartily agree with his comment about young William’s ‘self-awareness’. I would go as far to say that the author is projecting her (and society’s) own, presentist preoccupations back onto a group of very young characters who are very unlikely to have had anything like such deep thoughts on particularly weighty issues like homosexuality. Indeed, the level of the boys’ comprehension in a number of situations seems unrealistic to me. Or maybe its just a (very telling) reflection on my own immaturity when I was a adolescent?
I have more to say, but will wait to see what others think before writing again.
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