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After Such Kindness [Hardcover]

Gaynor Arnold
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.04 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

5 July 2012

When the writer, Oxford scholar and photographer, John Jameson, visits the home of his vicar friend, Daniel Baxter, he is entranced by his youngest daughter, Daisy. Jameson charms her with his wit and child-like imagination, teasing her with riddles and inventing humorous stories as they enjoy afternoons alone by the river and in his rooms.

The shocking impact of this unusual friendship is only brought to light when, years later, Daisy, unsettled in her marriage, rediscovers her childhood diaries hidden in an old toy chest. Will reading the secrets held in those gilt-edged pages help fill the gaps in her memory and explain why the touch of her kind, considerate husband fills her with such revulsion?

Inspired by the tender and troubling friendship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, After Such Kindness demonstrates Gaynor Arnold's extraordinary 'capacity to imagine the truth behind the facts'. With the same assured feel for the Victorian period displayed in her prize-listed debut, Arnold brings to scintillating life an idiosyncratic genius and his timeless muse.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tindal Street (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906994374
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906994372
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 621,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gaynor Arnold was born in Cardiff, and read English at Oxford University. She was a social worker for many years, writing in her spare time. Her debut novel, 'Girl in a Blue Dress' (based on the marriage of Charles Dickens) was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008 and the Orange Prize 2009. She has subsequently published a collection of short stories 'Lying Together' and a novel 'After Such Kindness' (inspired by Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell). She has recently co-edited (with Julia Bell) an anthology of short stories by 22 authors from the Tindal Street Fiction Group, titled 'The Sea in Birmingham'. Gaynor is married with two adult children, and lives in Birmingham.

Product Description


As finely wrought as her 2008 debut, Girl in a Blue Dress - a literary gem --Independent

Charming and beautifully written, but with dark undertones --We Love This Book

The fascinating exploration of Victorian social mores climaxes in a totally unexpected ending that flips assumption on its head and shocks to the core. Gripping and unsettling --Easy Living

Book Description

Novel based on the unconventional relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After Such Kindness 25 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an unsettling and fascinating novel, looking at the relationship between Lewis Carroll (whose real name was obviously Charles Dodgson and in this novel is renamed John Jameson) Alice Liddell (renamed Daisy Baxter) and her family. Of course, Alice Liddell was famously the inspiration for "Alice in Wonderland" and although this is a fictional account of real life, it is wonderfully done. The novel is told from the viewpoint of Jameson himself, Daisy as a young girl and as a grown woman, not quite sure why she is reluctant to read a childhood diary, Daisy's mother and her father.

Daniel Baxter is a vicar who meets John Jameson at Oxford, where they become friends. Over time, Jameson meets Baxter's family, including his three daughters, of whom Daisy is the youngest, and his baby son. During a birthday treat for Daisy, a picnic on the river, Mr Jameson averts a near disaster and is welcomed with even greater warmth into the family. Soon Daisy becomes his particular favourite and he arranges tea parties for her and her friends, as well as taking photographs of them, declaring, "girls, in my opinion, are the most delightful creatures in the world." Daisy obviously basks in the attention, but gradual disquiet is voiced about the relationship. The novel builds to a disconcerting and well written climax, as the author cleverly shows the point of view of all concerned, as well as the way behaviours which now seem very inappropriate were viewed in more innocent times.

If you enjoy this novel, and I am sure you will, you might like to read The Alice Behind Wonderland, which looks at Lewis Carroll and his photography (including his famous portrait of Alice Liddell) in greater detail.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than Victoriana... 27 Aug 2012
Gaynor Arnold's second novel, After Such Kindness, announces itself as inspired by Lewis Carroll and Alice and this is certainly useful information. But quickly the reality, or otherwise, of that relationship is set aside as Arnold's characters begin to live. We, of course, are aware of the terrible things that adults can do to children (and to each other) and of the ability of the human mind to fictionalise or hide the truth. And we - in our rational and enquiring world at least - are largely un-influenced by a day to day concern for interpreting the will of an Almighty. So in reading After Such Kindness we are permitted a privileged view, smiling benignly at the extraordinary knots of conscience into which the protagonists tie themselves.

Or so I thought, but actually we are absorbed by the layers of known and unknown deceit; the concerns for propriety and appearance become real; the lightly-drawn back-stories of each of the characters offer an emotional drama far more significant than the individual players. At the heart of After Such Kindness is the early life of Daisy Baxter, who with the naivety of a Victorian child illuminates the inequality and extremism of a culture that considered itself rather civilised. And it is around her 'innocence' and what this might mean - how it might be traded into marriage, how it might be used as art, how adults might relate to it - that the story weaves. Revelations are offered to us, always with a certain uncertainty to remind us that appearance and reality were ever at odds. Characters form and re-form themselves; a telling phrase or disarming cameo often suggesting that there is more to be known.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark themes - light touch 28 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The cleverness of Gaynor Arnold is that she manages to deal with challenging subjects, insanity, "inappropriate" behaviour, hypocrisy, misogyny, Victorian Christianity, faltering faith, while at the same time writing a book that is very easy to read. The relationship of John Jameson and Daisy Baxter (respectively fictionalised depictions of Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell) is, despite our modern sensibilities, described with a lightness of touch that leaves you wanting to believe that it is truly innocent; indeed that decision is left to the reader without any large red signposts from the author. The occasional allusions to Alice in Wonderland which by and large take the form of snippets of conversation between John Jameson and Daisy, are delightful and the cleverness is that one is shown the workings of the clergyman-mathematician's mind that is to create the Alice in Wonderland fantasy. Although central to it, this relationship is only part of the story which deals also with the struggles of its adult characters and their very real adult problems.

The story is told through the eyes of the four main characters, Jameson, Daisy both as a child and young adult and each of Daisy's parents and latterly also through those of Daisy's husband. The themes are difficult but with so much of the tale related by the bright and innocent Daisy through her journal and thoughts, it never for a moment becomes bogged down. I raced through the book which is both serious and a page-turner all at the same time. A wonderful achievement, buy it and read it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Drink Me
Gaynor Arnold's first novel, Girl In A Blue Dress, animated a fictional Dickens. In After Such Kindness, she bestows the same treatment on Lewis Carroll. Read more
Published 7 months ago by MisterHobgoblin
2.0 out of 5 stars uncomfortable
I gave up on this book half way through. Not that it wasn't well written but I could see where it was leading and didn't want to go there.
Published 11 months ago by evelyn stocker
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold storyline - sensitively written
Passionate and charming. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful book and an emotional tale. Absorbing to the end.
Published 12 months ago by ANTHONY C PLEDGER
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it but ........
The story is loosely based on the relationship between Lewis Carroll and the child who inspired the creation of "Alice" . Read more
Published 13 months ago by Robin
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent story
This is a first-rate read and an excellent story, whether or not you know the writings of 'Lewis Carroll'. The story. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amanda Elliott
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and well written
Very readable. I liked the away the story was revealed by different characters in overlapping narratives. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Stardust
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoied this book
If you love Alice in Wonderland, you'll love this story as well. I really loved reading it!!it's simple written, but quite enjoiable
Published 18 months ago by francesca
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
This is both a fascinating and an unsettling read. I really couldn't put it down. It keeps you guessing almost to the last and the outcome isn't really what you would expect when... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Crystaljanet
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book marred by poor formatting on Kindle
As others have said, this is a clever and thought-provoking novel and well worth reading. Unfortunately on the Kindle edition the entries from Daisy's journal - which are a crucial... Read more
Published on 19 Aug 2012 by Sean S
4.0 out of 5 stars Childhood classic turned psychological susmense tale
Lovers of the Alice stories will automatically seize this new novel by Gaynor Arnold hoping for an extension to Wonderland. Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2012 by Aisha Farooq
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