The Good People
By: Hannah Kent
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Hedged in by gossip and joined by their desperation, three women in nineteenth-century Ireland are drawn together in the hope of rescuing a child from a superstitious community, determined to rid itself of the strange and unknowable. Bereft after the loss of her husband, Nora finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheal–a boy whom she recalls as having been a happy and healthy infant but now, in the wake of both his mother’s and grandfather’s deaths, can neither speak nor walk. Mary, a servant girl from more rural parts, comes to the valley to help Nora just as the rumors are spreading: the talk of unexplained misfortunes and illnesses, and the theory that deformed Micheal is a changeling, a fairy child to blame for the bad luck the valley has endured since his arrival.
Determined to banish the evil in Micheal, Nora and Mary enlist the help of the elderly Nance, a recluse and wanderer once revered by her neighbors for her healing powers, but now condemned as a fraud and a threat by the new priest in town.
As the trio’s situation grows more dire, their folkloric practices become increasingly daring–culminating, at last, in a stunning and irreversible act that will put all their lives in danger. Terrifying, thrilling, and wholly original, THE GOOD PEOPLE is a startling examination of absolute belief and superstition taken to their extremes, of the universal yearning to belong, and of love, both tender and harsh.
I think I bought this book the other year but I took a long time getting around to reading it. I loooooooooooooooooved Burial Rites (review) so I guess I was both apprehensive but also wanting to savour her next book. Anyway, finally got around to reading it last year so yay 🙂
Once again Hannah Kent has produced a well-written novel. She does a wonderful job in portraying the realities of women during this period of history, especially when it comes to the subject of widowhood during this period and matters surrounding a child with special needs/illness, how what is seen as different from the norm is immediately persecuted and blamed for when things go wrong (stillbirths, illnesses, bad crops). I seem to have been on a streak of reading books last year of this period where women and ill children are ostracised and persecuted, deemed as witches, changelings, etc. It was interesting to learn about the folklore and about the way they lived in nineteenth century Ireland–Ireland was still pretty rural during this time compared to their neighbours and to whatever the urban centres looked like, felt almost medieval. It was a harrowing read, my goodness, I was so stressed for the characters and their respective plights, I could feel their anguish and their desperation.
Overall The Good People was an informative read. Definitely not to be picked up and read as a light read. I still prefer Burial Rites because it was a much more atmospheric and absorbing read, but I still thought this book was well-written and drew your attention into its story and the characters.