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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly engaging read, 15 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Small Kindnesses (Kindle Edition)
Small Kindnesses by Fiona Robyn is utterly delightful. Leonard, a widower, finds a railway ticket in an old handbag belonging to his late wife Rose. The ticket to Didcot, together with a letter from an old school friend of Rose, set Leonard off on a trail of discovery. A closely observed portrait of an extended family, as well as a study in grief and identity, Small Kindnesses is vibrant and real. Leonard is lightly flawed and very likeable as he deals with crisis after crisis without Rose's help and advice. Robyn highlights the double whammy that is every widow and widower's main tragedy: the dealing with grief and trauma without the help of the lost spouse. It is, as you would expect, touching, but it is far from soppy and makes you smile time after time.

Robyn's true strength is in her portrayal of relationships, particularly parent and child relationships. Here there are very different relationships between Leonard and Rose and their daughter, and their own parents, and their grandchildren:

In the morning they go to a park with a lake in the middle and an impressive playground. The boys swing on their swings for as long as the adults can bear to push them. After half an hour of continuous swinging, Leonard wonders if they would ever get tired of it. He sees them in his mind's eye with a huge back-up team of adult pushers to launch and re-launch them into the air twenty-four hours a day. They'll eat and drink on them, learn their times tables, sleep on them, grow out of their tiny trousers and into bigger and bigger ones, holding mini-TVs in their laps, chatting with friends who jump onto the swings beside them. 'The Amazing Swinging Twins!' the papers will announce, and psychologists and film-makers will come from far and wide to analyse them and film them as they swing. The'll only stop when Rory, aged 17, falls in love with one of his young pushers and leaps off into the air and into her arms.

As well as being a parent and grandparent Leonard is a gardener. His day job is with the National Trust and he thinks of flowers and plants throughout the day at work and at home. This living background to the narrative gives the book a real painterly quality: character portraits with leaf work.

Leonard has a gardener's sharp observation: he sees the detail and has the patience to wait for the whole picture which time will reveal, and he is prepared to spend time nurturing for he knows the rewards to come. A truly lovely book, gently incisive, witty and engaging!
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