About the Book
Coventry, 1941. The morning after one of the worst nights of the Blitz. Twenty-two-year-old Rose enters the remains of a bombed house to find her best friend dead. Shocked and confused, she makes a split-second decision that will reverberate for generations to come.
More than fifty years later, in modern-day Brighton, Rose’s granddaughter Lara waits for the return of her eighteen-year-old son Jay. Reckless and idealistic, he has gone to Iraq to stand on a conflict line as an unarmed witness to peace.
Lara holds her parents, Mollie and Rufus, partly responsible for Jay’s departure. But in her attempts to explain their thwarted passions, she finds all her assumptions about her own life are called into question.
Then into this damaged family come two strangers – Oliver, a former faith healer, and Jemmy, a young woman devastated by the loss of a baby. Together they help to establish a partial peace – but at what cost?
Between the Regions of Kindness is a novel that follows several characters, and is set in two timelines – 1941 during the Blitz and 2003 in the run up to the beginning of the Iraq war. The novel opens in Coventry in 1941 and in the aftermath of a bombing Rose goes to her friend’s house and shockingly finds her dead. Here Rose makes a decision that has ramifications throughout the years that follow. In 2003 we follow Lara, Rose’s Grand-daughter as she tries to come to terms with her son’s decision to go to Iraq on a peace mission.
The novel really explores the experience of being a mother – some of the women to their grown children and another woman to her unborn baby. Jay is a troubled young man and we first know of him through his mother Lara’s perspective and as she goes into his bedroom it becomes increasingly clear that she is at a loss. She doesn’t understand why her son has gone off on a peace mission, and she didn’t have any idea that he was even planning to do this. She is stunned and gradually, over the course of the novel, she comes to know more about why her son was doing what he was doing. She only really gets to know her son in his absence and through very sporadic communications with him while he’s away. This contrasts so stunningly with the young Rose and the decision she made in 1941 when her and her daughter Mollie were living through the Blitz.
I was most affected by Jemmy, a young woman who has recently lost a baby and is now pregnant again. The loss of her first baby was heart-breaking to read about – I know what this loss feels like and the way it is explored in this novel was so honest and real. Soon after we meet Jemmy we learn that she’s pregnant again but she’s unable to feel the joy she felt before, there is just so much fear eating away at her. Her increasing desperation to keep this baby safe was palpable and I was hoping along with her that she would get a happy ending this time.
There is also an exploration of the stories that run through a family and how each generation hears parts of them and tries to understand how they came to be. Rose’s daughter Mollie (Lara’s mother) had a troubled youth and it impacted who she came to be as grew older. There are many tales that she tells such as the time she fell off a roof and throughout the novel it seems to Lara that these are embellished or possibly not even true. We do get to find out the truth of the stories, but also about what made Mollie who she is.
Then there is Oliver, a man who used to be a faith healer but after life has dealt him some blows he’s not sure he has any power to heal anymore. There are things that happen around him that made me wonder if he could heal but for me his real power came in the muddling along of his budding friendship with Lara. Sometimes it’s not in an actual healing that someone begins to be mended but it’s the having someone who will listen and be there, no matter what you throw at them that starts to heal someone.
Between the Regions of Kindness is ultimately a novel about resilience, about how we have to find a way to pick ourselves back up when the worst has happened. It’s about how people have to be vulnerable, have to let others in so that they can help us find the way through our pain, and conversely people have to let us see the person underneath the brave face so that we can help them. The exploration of grief is palpable at times but Alice Jolly’s writing is so beautiful that you just have to keep reading.
I adore the cover of Between the Regions of Kindness, it just immediately shows that even in the darkest moments new things will grow. Flowers will appear, and kindness will be shown (sometimes from the most unlikely sources but it will be there). It really is a wonderful cover and is so perfect for this stunning novel.
I loved Between the Regions of Kindness! It’s quite a chunky book but I still read it over the course of two afternoons, it just pulls you in from the opening chapter and keeps you under its spell until long after you’ve finished reading. It’s impossible for me to do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but if you take away one thing from reading my rambling thoughts it’s that this is a book not to be missed. I would recommend this to everyone. It’s rare to find a book that has so much depth and beauty while at the same time never shying away from the really harrowing parts of life. It’s a stunning book, one I am so glad I had the chance to read.
Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book and my invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.
Between the Regions of Kindness is out now and available here.
About the Author
Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. She has published two novels with Simon and Schuster and has been commissioned four times by the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. She has also written for Paines Plough and her work has been performed at The Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden and The Space, East London. In 2014 one of her short stories won The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. Her memoir Dead Babies and Seaside Towns was published by Unbound in July 2015, and won the PEN Ackerley Prize 2016. She teaches creative writing on the Mst at Oxford University.
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