My Bookish Act of Kindness

Something REALLY spooky happened when I performed my random act of kindness.

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I smugly decided on a bookish act of kindness. I’d slip a £5 voucher for my favourite café into a book in the local library. But my favourite café, it turns out, does not do vouchers. Four cafés later, still no voucher, and I’d become pretty irritated. I tried my favourite cookie shop instead but no vouchers there either. Finally I found Café Nero: they do vouchers but only £10 not £5 ones. Gritting my teeth, I bought the £10 voucher. ‘Sometimes, there’s nothing better than sitting in a café with a good book’. I wrote, grimly. I’d decided it was too self-serving to put the voucher into one of my own novels, so I’d planned to put it into The Kindness, by Polly Samson, a brilliant book. But that was out on loan. So were both my novels (I cheered up a bit at that). Then I remembered that it was the poet Sylvia Plath’s birthday yesterday. Her angry poems seemed to suit my mood so I went and found her collection Ariel. The volume fell open – no, I am not kidding – exactly at the bitter, despairing, double-edged poem Kindness.

Kindness glides about my house.

Dame Kindness, she is so nice!

I felt as if Sylvia Plath sending me a message from beyond the grave. I slipped my voucher into the page and as an afterthought - it's a pretty furious poem - I added: ‘Sometimes, kindness really can be genuine and uncomplicated’.

I loitered a bit but the poetry section is pretty quiet and nobody went anywhere near Plath. But poetry happens to be next to the history section and as I left I found two books on Victorian women that I need for my current research. I glided out of the library feeling rather buoyant and productive, with a flicker of excitement in my belly at the thought that someone - I'm imagining a woman who has been betrayed and feels very alone - will open Plath’s poem and find my gift.

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Lucy Atkins


Author of the novels The Other Child (2015), and The Missing One (2014); award winning author & feature journalist.


Go to the profile of Suzy Walker
about 6 years ago
What a treat! I love this campaign gives me such pleasure to think of that grumpy, betrayed woman who finds that voucher...and...and.... Love it! Thank you, Lucy. x