Tonight nineteen-year-old William Lavery is dressed for success, his first black-tie do. It’s the Midlands Chapter of the Institute of Embalmers Ladies’ Night Dinner Dance, and William is taking Gloria in her sequined evening gown. He can barely believe his luck.
But as the guests sip their drinks and smoke their post-dinner cigarettes a telegram delivers news of a tragedy. An event so terrible it will shake the nation. It is October 1966 and a landslide at a coal mine has buried a school: Aberfan.
William decides he must act, so he stands and volunteers to attend. It will be his first job, and will be – although he’s yet to know it – a choice that threatens to sacrifice his own happiness. His work that night will force him to think about the little boy he was, and the losses he has worked so hard to bury. But compassion can have surprising consequences, because – as William discovers – giving so much to others can sometimes help us heal ourselves.
A Terrible Kindness is an emotional, memorable book about family, love, and death, spanning multiple decades as we see our protagonist William grow up from a young boy.
We start the novel in 1966. William has just graduated with flying colours when – at his graduation dinner – we hear they need Embalmers to volunteer to help with the Aberfan disaster. This experience changes William’s outlook on life, and we go back to his school days. We see his friendship with Martin grow as well as his relationship with his uncle and mother, and the way the loss of William’s father has affected his family.
This novel is full of brilliant characters including William, Richard, his uncle Robert and his partner Howard, and many others I l loved reading about. They make this story what it is – a powerful look at relationships, how the past can affect every part of you, and the importance of looking forward. Although the synopsis makes it sound like this novel is very much about Aberfan, that only comes into it for a small part of the story, but I’d like to have read more about this despite it being such an awful part of history.
I listened to some of this on audiobook and thought it was done brilliantly – it was really engaging to listen to. Definitely recommended.