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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After Such Kindness
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,...
Published on 25 July 2012 by S Riaz

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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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 19 months ago by evelyn stocker


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After Such Kindness, 25 July 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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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. You might also want to read Gaynor Arnold's first novel, Girl in a Blue Dress, which also takes a fictional look at a real life relationship - in that case the marriage of Charles Dickens - and is also a wonderful read. Both novels by this author would make an excellent choice for a reading group, with lots to discuss and interesting themes. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than Victoriana..., 27 Aug. 2012
By 
Jonathan Davidson (The English Midlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: After Such Kindness (Hardcover)
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.

This is a subtle and troubling period portrait that reflect our times. We too value image above all else, we too are obsessed with the truth behind the front and we are just as capable of being influenced irrationally by forces beyond our control or understanding. Arnold's characters are clearly of their time and even of the literature of their time (there are echoes of Hardy and Elliot) and yet they have a real force. Though it has a Victorian setting this is not Victoriana - this is a novel of truth and lies, of boundaries and transgressions, and of the hopeless ability of human beings to make a good situation bad. And the prose is excellent: direct enough for the modern reader but with an echo of a more leisured time. This is an excellent novel and a rewarding read.
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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
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Drink Me, 14 Jan. 2014
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: After Such Kindness (Hardcover)
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. Or, to be more precise, she animated a fictional Rev. Charles Dodgson, the man who wrote as Carroll.

Famously, Carroll wrote Alice In Wonderland for - and about - his friend's daughter, Alice Liddell. Sure enough, Gaynor Arnold's fictional Rev John Jameson writes for the young Daisy Baxter. But the point of the novel is not the writing - nor a parade of known and verifiable biographical incidents - but an exploration of characters through entirely fictitious situations. This is a huge strength of Arnold's work; other fictionalisations of known people tend to look two dimensional because reality is just so much less vivid than fantasy, but by permitting the use of fantasy, these interesting characters can be portrayed with the colour turned up.

Since his death, there have been suggestions that Charles Dodgson's rapport with children might not have been entirely healthy. It would have been easy to write a book full of schlock to illustrate this. But John Jameson is portrayed in a more ambiguous way - the reader is left to decide whether and what to infer. The story focuses on the impacts of the friendship on both Daisy and Jameson, as well as her fictional parents and future husband. Told through different viewpoints, the story is allowed to unfold gradually - perhaps slightly slowly - and to morph as viewpoints differ. Perhaps there are transgressors in the narrative, but the blame seems to fall more squarely on societal viewpoints: "the Eyes of Society" as Jameson would have it.

The issues of sexuality and emancipation are treated gently, yet still with power and impact. The novel as a whole feels well crafted, well measured and competent. Perhaps it lacks a certain wow and occasionally Gaynor Arnold might be accused of using the benefit of hindsight to make characters seem prescient. On balance, though, this is a good novel well worth reading.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and dark, 6 July 2012
By 
K. Logan "urban fairytaler" (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: After Such Kindness (Hardcover)
This fictional take on Lewis Carroll's friendship with Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland) is charming and beautifully written, but with dark undertones.

The novel is written from four perspectives: John Jameson (the fictionalised Carroll), an eccentric academic at Oxford; Margaret Constantine (the fictionalised Alice), a troubled newlywed looking back on the childhood diaries describing her friendship with Jameson; and Margaret's parents, Daniel and Evelina Baxter. At first Jameson seems a rather sinister character and it's difficult not to see his actions and emotions through modern eyes. Nowadays it would be seen as suspicious and even shocking if a grown man wished to spend time with a little girl he was not related to - even in Jameson's time no-one can quite understand why he wants to spend so much time with an 11-year-old child. This, along with hints at Daniel Baxter's breakdown and various fractures within the family, adds a dark current to the novel that contrasts the childish voice of the diaries.

Fans of Alice will love the nods to various Wonderland elements. Although this is a fictionalised account, it's a joy to spot the parallels between Jameson's life and that of the book and imagine how it all came together in his mind. The story moves along well and each scene is beautifully drawn. As layers of the story are peeled back and Margaret begins to remember more about Jameson, the novel builds to a brilliant climax.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'After such Kindness' - A Brilliant Read, 17 July 2012
This review is from: After Such Kindness (Hardcover)
Gaynor Arnold fictionalizes the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice in an exciting, though dark novel that is impossible to put down. The reader is drawn into each narrative as the story of Daisy's childhood unfolds, shedding light on her troubled married life and providing a collection of viewpoints on the events that take place along the way. This makes for an exciting page-turner which raises questions about love and friendship that we may otherwise avoid.

Arnold's careful handling of key Victorian themes, such as insanity, transition and the `eye of society', ensures that the mindset of the characters matches the Victorian setting of the novel. Yet, the voices of these characters are relatable to a modern reader and come alive on the page. The recollections of Margaret Constantine's forgotten years, which are sparked by entries from her own diary, are told as though by her child self and are by far the most engaging read. We grow to love Daisy, as we simultaneously recognise the issues in other characers' love for her.

Throughout this touching novel Arnold brightens the tone by interspersing references to `Alice in Wonderland', throwing us back into memories of fairytales and fantasies. The reader therefore witnesses this story from the standpoint of both childish innocence and adult responsibility, so that we, like Daisy/Margaret, are caught up somewhere in between.

Overall, a brilliant read that I would recommend highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bold storyline - sensitively written, 1 Sept. 2013
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Passionate and charming. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful book and an emotional tale. Absorbing to the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent story, 4 Aug. 2013
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This is a first-rate read and an excellent story, whether or not you know the writings of 'Lewis Carroll'. The story. Is engrossing and it would be nice to think that the world has moved on and young women are no longer treated as poor little hysterical creatures, suffering from deluded imaginations!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and well written, 10 Mar. 2013
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Very readable. I liked the away the story was revealed by different characters in overlapping narratives. Lots of interesting ideas about innocence, childhood and the long term results of child abuse. The writing is warm and humerous.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary novel, 6 July 2012
This review is from: After Such Kindness (Hardcover)
After Such Kindness is a cleverly crafted and thought-provoking novel, which explores the spectrum of human emotion, through the somewhat controversial relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell.

When Oxford Scholar, photographer and writer John Jameson is invited to the home of his friend, Daniel Baxter, he meets Baxter's youngest daughter, Daisy and finds himself enchanted by her. Slowly building up a friendship, Jameson provides a new world for Daisy, of imagination, photographs, riddles and nonsense and in return Daisy offers a fresh, innocent perspective on life.

Later when Daisy has grown older and is newly married, she revisits her sparkling childhood through her old diary abandoned in a toy chest, reopening the memories of her friendship with Jameson and confronting the haunting guilt over why she feels so uncomfortable getting to know her new husband.

After Such Kindness showcases Arnold's ability to tell a challenging story from each character's vivid viewpoint, building up to an unexpected and shocking revelation.
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After Such Kindness
After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold (Hardcover - 5 July 2012)
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