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Molly Keane (1904–1996)

Author of Good Behaviour

19+ Works 3,086 Members 75 Reviews 22 Favorited

About the Author

Works by Molly Keane

Good Behaviour (1981) 889 copies
Devoted Ladies (1934) 344 copies
The Rising Tide (1937) 283 copies
Time After Time (1983) 272 copies
Loving and Giving (1988) 229 copies
Full House (1935) 168 copies
Mad Puppetstown (1931) 159 copies
Two Days in Aragon (1941) 145 copies
Loving Without Tears (1951) 115 copies
Taking Chances (1929) 106 copies
Young Entry (1928) 98 copies
Treasure Hunt (1952) 92 copies
Conversation Piece (1932) 62 copies
Virago Omnibus II (1728) — Contributor — 38 copies
Molly Keane's Ireland (1993) 20 copies
Red Letter Days (1988) 6 copies

Associated Works

The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) — Contributor — 153 copies
The Dick Francis Treasury of Great Racing Stories (1989) — Contributor — 59 copies
The Penguin Book of Irish Comic Writing (1996) — Author, some editions — 26 copies
The Selected Letters of Somerville and Ross (1989) — Foreword — 20 copies
The New Treasury of Great Racing Stories (1991) — Contributor — 17 copies


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Keane, Mary Nesta
Skrine, Mary Nesta (birth)
Other names
Farrell, M. J.
Date of death
Burial location
Church of Ireland Church, Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland
Ballyrankin, County Kildare, Ireland
Place of death
Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland
Places of residence
Ballyrankin, County Wexford, Ireland
Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland
boarding school
O'Neill, Moira (mother)
Phipps, Sally (daughter)
Aosdána (member)
Georgia Glover (David Higham Associates)
Short biography
Molly Keane was an Anglo-Irish writer born and raised in Ireland, in a hunting, fishing family.  Her mother was a minor poet.  She was articulate and well-informed although having received little education from governesses and boarding school. She began writing anonymously, as it would have been held disgraceful for a young lady of her time to have her name appear in print. She wrote 10 novels between 1928 and 1952, and four plays, with John Perry, by 1961, highly regarded by critic James Agate. After her husband Robert Keane died at the age of 36, she stopped writing for many years, then made her comeback with Good Behaviour (1981), which became a literary sensation. Her extraordinary novels are beloved for their black comedy and the dialogue with which she brought to life the (now gone) privileged world in which she grew up -- often involving genteel poverty and loneliness.  She died in 1996, leaving two daughters.



Folio Archives 285: Good Behaviour by Molly Keane 2012 in Folio Society Devotees (August 2022)


I thought I'd like this more than I did. Usually I love an unreliable narrator but in this case it was quite miserable reading. The unreliability comes from Aroon's lack of experience and understanding, not through any purposeful layer of deception in her telling the story of her family.

She grew up so sheltered she can't read between the lines and see through "good behaviour", and as such reading her life of both recognised and unrecognised humiliations was more sad than entertaining.

That said she's also so snobbish in only entertaining friendship from the right class of people, really no better than her awful family, that she never held my sympathy for long.
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ImagineAlice | 20 other reviews | Mar 2, 2024 |
The St Charles family, like many other members of the Ascendancy in 1920s Ireland, find themselves on the brink of an economic and cultural abyss. There's no more money to maintain their crumbling Georgian manor, and the rules of Good Behaviour constrain them from talking openly about all the ways they are horrible to one another or about how the world is changing around them. (Neither Independence nor the Civil War are so much as mentioned her.)

Good Behaviour is narrated by the daughter of the family, Aroon, who is naive and passive, an inveterate observer who can't or won't see what's happening under her nose, an unlikable character who occasionally stirs the reader's sympathy. Molly Keane had a keen eye for all the ways that families can hurt one another, and for the acute, cringing horror of awkward social situations—I spent much of my time reading the book with my shoulders up around my ears in vicarious humiliation. The dark humour on display here is poisonous, congealing, unfailingly bleak—tapping into that vein of Irish humour that refuses the possibility of hope.… (more)
siriaeve | 20 other reviews | Nov 6, 2023 |
Loving Without Tears published in 1951 is a romantic novel which sounds outdated today and probably did when it was originally published.
Angel a matriarchal figure is eagerly awaiting the return of her eldest son Julian to the family castle somewhere on the Irish coast. He has been an airplane fighter pilot based in Italy near the end of the second world war. Waiting at home with Angel are Slaney her daughter and Tiddley a cousin noted for her shortness of stature. Oliver is a land agent who also lives in the castle as does the cook and servant Birdie who used to be the children's nanny. Angel has prided herself in managing the lives of her family and looks forward to having them around her again. Julian however arrives home with an American Lady Mrs Wood a widow some ten years older than him whom he intends to marry. Angel has work to do: she needs to break up her son's romance, stop Slaney becoming infatuated with Colonel Chris, ensure that Birdie does not run off with Mrs Wood's manservant and get rid of Tiddley's piano.

The majority of the story takes place on the day of the arrival of Julian. The dialogue for the most part is excruciating, with Angel breaking out into french when she wants to soften her blows. Angel is the only grown up in the room until Mrs Wood arrives; most of the others acting like naive half-wits. Did wealthy people really talk and act in this fashion I wonder, as most of it sounds like a badly acted kitchen sink drama. The only saving grace for this novel is some fine descriptive writing of the castle buildings, the gardens and the little boat docking area. 2 stars.
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baswood | 4 other reviews | Oct 11, 2023 |
A dark comedy, set in the Anglo Irish 1930's, narrated by Aroon an unattractive and generally unlikable character who misunderstands almost everything going on around her with a startling naivete. Written from the POV of this character, the author shows not tells us Aroon's world and worldview, and maintains this method for the whole book, which in itself is quite a feat.
Enormously good fun to debate with my book club pals.
celerydog | 20 other reviews | Sep 27, 2023 |



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