Retrato do autor

Jo Browning-Wroe

Autor(a) de A Terrible Kindness

14 Works 180 Membros 5 Críticas

About the Author

Includes the name: Jo Browning Wroe


Obras por Jo Browning-Wroe


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
1964 (or close)



The tragedy of Aberfan is one that no Brit of my generation or older is likely ever to forget. That 116 children and 28 adults, all from the town's primary school should lose their lives when a colliery spoil heap collapsed and buried them was shocking, even from afar, For 19 year old William Lavery, just-graduated embalmer who volunteers to go and help prepare the dead for burial it was traumatising, and coloured his life thereafter. It wasn't the first traumatic event in his life. The first was when he was a boy chorister in Cambridge - and actually, he had trauma to deal with before that too, as a boy of 8. This is the story of how his life unfolds, switching back and forth between the years, unpicking the various strands of his story that depict the damaged young man he becomes, and his eventual slow redemption. Beautifully and engagingly told, this story deals with big, unmanageable emotions, and is one of those books about which I can say ' I couldn't put it down'.… (mais)
Margaret09 | 4 outras críticas | Apr 15, 2024 |
From the glitz and glamour of a black-tie dinner hosted by the Institute of Embalmers where he nervously awaits mention for his outstanding examination results to the heart-breaking reality and human tragedy of the immediate aftermath of the Aberfan disaster in a matter of hours as William Laverly responds to an emergency appeal for volunteer embalmers made in the after-dinner speech.
The retrieval of the bodies from the mountainous pile of slag, the covering and piling up of the bodies in the chapel, the cleaning of the bodies in preparation for identification, the embalming and placing of the bodies into tiny coffins are described with great compassion and sensitivity without sparing the slightest detail.
In the cold, the dark and the rain amidst the indefatigable, feverish shovelling of the fathers and despairing gathering of the devasted mothers we are also made aware that 19 year old William has underlying issues concerning his mother, choral music, his dear friend Martin and the death of his father.
Aberfan, Cambridge Choir, Family Business, Midnight Choir, Aberfan.
A beautifully written story of hopes and expectations, disappointments and misunderstandings, insecurities and fears where all the characters, situations and experiences, from boarding school dormitories to student lodgings, embalming rooms to the choir stalls of Cambridge, homemade biscuits to abandoned roast dinners are made so real that you can’t avoid being part of William’s journey.
Like it or not I now have a graphic knowledge of the embalming process and the urge to listen to Allegri’s Miserere.
A great read.
… (mais)
geraldine_croft | 4 outras críticas | Mar 21, 2024 |
Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for emerging writers, A Terrible Kindness is the debut novel of Jo Browning Wroe from Birmingham. In the UK it became a bestseller, but I heard about it from a podcast called Pagecast. This novel was also mentioned in a Guardian article about the rise of older female writers. Wroe was 58 when it was published. Most people would probably not associate traumatic experiences with the e, and in my reading, it has featured in that context. A Terrible Kindness, however, is the first that I've read that focusses on the unseen 'first responders' who come into a community to attend to the bodies of the dead in a mass disaster. Wroe's novel is about a young man called William, who responded for a call to help at the Aberfan disaster. Aged just nineteen, he spent three days making a succession of little bodies fit for parents to identify, and when his work was done he went home to Birmingham. Aberfan in the days immediately after the disaster, showing the extent of the spoil slip (Wikipedia) Reading this novel brought back memories for me. I was a teenager in 1966 when a Welsh colliery slag heap collapsed in heavy rain, sending a slurry (a river of waste material from the coal mine) down into the valley at 50 miles an hour. In the village of Aberfan, it smothered Pantglas Junior School and some houses, killing 116 children between seven and ten, and 28 adults. It was front page news here in Australia, and though the disaster was masked by the small black-and-white images, the world grieved. Going to school was an ordinary everyday experience. It had never occurred to us that disaster could suddenly strike like this. How could a community recover from something so dreadful? It is normal, I expect, that people focus on the bereaved, but Wroe, who 'grew up in a crematorium in Birmingham' has crafted her novel to depict the experience of one who dealt with this experience without the support of the community. William arrives at the scene after driving all night and is ushered into a makeshift, get them identified, treat and coffin them. Then they're moved to the other chapel. ' Jimmy still has his hand on William's shoulder, but he's talking to a spot on the ground a few feet ahead of them. William tries to concentrate; there won't be time for questions later. 'Our biggest challenge is the slurry. It's like tar and all you've got is soap and cold water. Just do the best y, William — it is William, isn't it?' William nods again. 'The help we give these people is not complicated. We do our job. We do it well, we do it quickly and we leave. We're not priests, or friends or family. We're embalmers. Keep your head down and your heart hard. That's your kindness.' He squeezes William's shoulder. 'Got it?' 'Yes sir.' (p.17) To read the rest of my review please visit… (mais)
anzlitlovers | 4 outras críticas | Mar 4, 2023 |
In October 1966, the small town of Aberfan in Wales, suffered a terrible tragedy when, after days of rain, a pile of spoils from the local coal mines slid in a slurry down the hillside into the town, taking down everything in its way, including the local school. 116 children and 28 adults were buried under the piles.

It took days to recover the bodies and the importance at that time of the embalmers cannot be overstated. They worked tirelessly to embalm the bodies after the grueling task of presenting devastated parents with the evidence that their child was among the lost. Jo Browning Wroe chose this setting for her enormously compelling and tragic novel.

Recently graduated embalmer, William Lavery, is asked to go to Aberfan to help and he accepts the challenge. He comes from a family of embalmers and funeral directors but his real love, nurtured by his mother and the Cambridge Choir she managed to get him into, is music and especially the singing of Allegri's 'Miserere'.

"It's a high wire act, this solo, like floating above a canyon. Getting up there isn't the problem; William can get to an F, never mind a C. The problem is holding the G in perfect pitch, rock steady, without cracking or fading while all the parts below are changing. Allegri's 'Miserere'. It still thrills him how his breath, his voice, can fill the chapel, soaring up to its high ceiling, piercing the silence, or slicing through other voices. And when he's a soloist, there's the thrill of knowing the others' voices are there to frame and magnify his own. It's magic. Pure magic." (Page 124)

Those are the two different threads of William's life that are woven together brilliantly in the novel, the Aberfan tragedy and the story that is William's life, both filled with challenges and sadness but the author handles all with aplomb and beautiful prose. This is historical fiction at the height of its powers, able to convey to the reader the horror of one particular event and its eventual impact on one individual, who is also fighting other demons. Wonderfully done and plenty of opportunities for tears. I played Allegri's 'Miserere' in the background while I read and it's just as beautiful as described. I'll remember this book for a long time and what more can we hope for as readers.
… (mais)
2 vote
brenzi | 4 outras críticas | Apr 10, 2022 |

You May Also Like


½ 4.3

Tabelas & Gráficos