July 21, 2015
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Polly Samson's second novel The Kindness is a gripping account of love and loss.
Financial Times wrote of the book:
"This is elegant, witty writing, informed throughout by generosity and wise perceptiveness. Dealing with many kinds of love, and with misunderstanding, betrayal, grief and forgiveness, the novel dares to posit, ultimately, the possibility of redemption."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
My playlist opens with Billie Holiday. The star-crossed lovers of The Kindness are Julia and Julian and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" is their song. It's on the radio when Julian comforts Julia as they dance following her flight from her abusive husband. It represents the overcoat in a storm, the feeling of protection that she gets whenever she's in his arms. Towards the end of the book she reflects that Julian is the only man who has ever made her feel "safe".
Julian is eight years younger than Julia when they meet. He's a serious English student studying Yeats and Milton. The first time he sees Julia she is flying her husband's hawk on the Downs. I've taken liberties with Yeats' "Second Coming" in writing this scene because it would have been so much in Julian's head when confronted with the falcon and the falconer. Joni Mitchell's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is a great way to hear the poem.
After that first meeting there's a period when Julian thinks he'll never find Julia again. When he does, he sees her reflected in a mirror. I thought angels should be singing and for that reason chose Crosby, Stills and Nash to be playing from an upstairs window. "Helplessly Hoping" "they are one person, they are two alone," has a perfect lyric for the moment and CSN harmonise as sweetly as a celestial host.
"Kooks" from David Bowie's Hunky Dory comes next. Julia knows all the words to every song on the album and sings as she paints the walls of their first flat. Having a child is on her mind and she and Julian are very much a couple of kooks hang up on romancing at this point of the novel.
Julian often finds himself facing temptation. Madonna's "Crazy For You" thuds out as his friend William buys him a lap dance during an almost unendurable "boys night out" and on another occasion Air's "You Make It Easy" plays in the hotel bar when his ex-girlfriend tries to seduce him.
No playlist is complete without Leonard Cohen and his The Future album provides the backing track for Julian's mother. She sings along to "Closing Time", getting the words muddled but she is a very good cook.
Pachelbel's Canon is such a heart-rending piece of music and that's why I gave it to the busker who plays it on the saxophone as Julia and Julian cross the bridge in Paris with him so full of hope and her newly-burdened with the secret that will lead to their downfall.
Finally, I have shamelessly stolen a lyric from my husband David Gilmour's song "Sorrow" and used it at the start of Julian's section of the novel. "He wakes to a morning with no reason for waking." I couldn't think of a better way to express his feeling of utter despair following the loss of Julia and their child.
Polly Samson and The Kindness links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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