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The Good People by Hannah Kent

The Good People (edition 2017)

by Hannah Kent (Author)

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1601374,566 (3.99)14
Title:The Good People
Authors:Hannah Kent (Author)
Info:Picador (2017), Edition: Main Market Ed., 400 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, Read in 2017, Historical Fiction, NetGalley
Tags:Historical Fiction

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The Good People by Hannah Kent



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In a remote part of Ireland in the early 19th century, life is hard. The people live basic lives, selling eggs and butter and farming the land for potatoes, just about managing to pay their rent each year. The Church is important but there is a great deal of suspicion and folklore, particularly about 'the good people', the fairies. Nora's daughter has died and her husband brings their crippled son to Nora and her husband but after the death of Nora's husband she becomes increasingly convinced that the boy is a changeling. The local 'wise woman' Nance tries to drive the fairy out of the boy as the valley turns against her and the Church threatens.

Having loved Kent's first novel 'Burial Rites' I eagerly awaited this one and was not disappointed. The intensity of poverty and ignorance in the wilds of Ireland is beautifully envisioned and the research into language and folklore is superb. It is clear the direction that the story will take but that isn't important, it's the stunning writing and characterisation that make this one of the best books that I have read recently. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
‘The Good People’ by Hannah Kent is a powerful second novel from a writer whose debut was outstanding. It is a tale of rural people in a poor community where superstition and folklore become entangled with one woman’s grief, with tragic results. Conflicting systems of thought come into play – folklore, religion, medicine and legal – and fail to make sense of what happens to Nóra Leahy. The power of the story lies not in black versus white, or logic and education versus peasant superstition, it lies in its characters.
County Kerry, Ireland, 1826. An isolated village, where gossip goes around and around, where people survive on milk and potatoes and burn turf on the fire. A place where petty grievances are not forgotten, there is no money to pay the doctor, but there are still random acts of kindness. In such a poor community, what happens when the unthinkable happens, where the doctor and priest have no explanation or solution?
‘The Good People’ is based on true events, a court case which did happen. In the same year in which her daughter died, Nóra’s husband drops dead in the field leaving her alone to care for her four-year-old grandson Micheál. He cannot walk or speak and neither the doctor nor the priest can offer hope. So Nóra keeps him hidden from the village gossips in the fear that his deformities may be an indication of fairy interference. Unable to cope alone, Nóra employs 14-year-old Mary to milk the cow and fetch the water, and principally to care for Micheál. Soon Mary hears the whispers at the well, that the unnatural child of Nóra Leahy is to blame for the poor harvest, the hens not laying, the thin milk. So Nóra asks Nance Roche for help. Nance is the wise woman of the valley, she knows the plants, the cures, and she talks to the Good People… the fairies.
When Nance suggests the screaming, fitting, feeble child is not really Micheál but a changeling left in his place by the fairies, the three women become embroiled in cures to banish ‘the fairy’. The darkness of the cures attempted on a disabled and sick child is disturbing and, ultimately tragic. The events unfold slowly through the stories of Nóra, Mary and Nance. The writing is beautiful and every page is steeped in the folklore of rural Ireland, this bleak village where poor people live at the edge of survival. It is impossible not to connect with the three women, each so different, while at the time seeing the inevitability of what is to come.
A little historical context. In 1801 the Act of Union was enacted which ended a separate parliament in Dublin with government switching to Westminster. In 1823 in Ireland, Daniel O’Connell began to set up Catholic associations around the country, seeking a repeal of the Act of Union. In 1826 an ‘old woman of very advance age’ known as Anne/Nance Roche was indicted for the wilful murder of Michael Kelliher/Leahy at the summer Tralee assizes in Co. Kerry.
A compelling read.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jun 7, 2017 |
A good tale of the not so old beliefs of the Irish.. Where a woman Nora Lynch looses her daughter, husband in a short time & is left with her disabled grandson who is very mentally & physically deficient. The hiring of a girl Mary to help and the trying to remove the child's changling affection thru a herbalist Nancy. she believed she could have her grandson back & still did even after the trial. The accusing,unhelpful, finger pointing new priest who surprisingly finally offers Mary support if she turns state evidence against the other two
A little long & drawn out but there are some lovely Irish sayings. with those who are attached to the seasons for a living one can see how these myths develop & become intrenched in village law. ( )
  BryceV | Jun 3, 2017 |
The book opens with the death of Nora's husband Martin. Nora is now left to be the sole caretaker of her grandson, a four year old that can neither talk nor walk, screams constantly at night and it hard to pacify. Grief stricken, Nora manages to convince herself that he is not her real grandson but rather a changeling, left in his place by the fairies. She will do anything to get her "real" grandson back. Nance is a healer but is also said to know the ways of the fairies.

It is 1825 in Ireland and superstition and the old ways are still prominent but the local priest is making inroads on the belief patterns of the villagers. Soon these two belief systems will clash and things will never be the same. Atmospherically dark, the subject is dark as well, Kent turns her hand to another true case in the past, and does it ably. Her descriptions, as in her first book, pulls the reader into this dark and tragic time. Grief can take many turns and in this book the one it takes is quite horrible and not easy to read. Yet, her writing and her prose is once again outstanding, though I did feel at times it was somewhat overdone. Also found it repetitive in some instances and felt at times that this hindered the storytelling and the pace.

It is, however, another unforgettable book, an impactful one, not easy to forget. The Wonder, has the same darkness and the Irish setting though not the same subject and The Stolen child, is another book that deals with changeling and fairies. If you liked either of those, one should also find much to admire in this, I did. Can't quite get it out of my head.

ARC from publisher.
Publishes in the US in September by Little, Brown. ( )
1 vote Beamis12 | Apr 1, 2017 |
The Good People by Hannah Kent takes us to a remote valley in south-west Ireland in 1825. Times are hard, crops fail, people sicken, babies die, and despite the insistence of the local priest that the old ways are pagan and forbidden, many attribute their misfortunes to the Good People, the fairies.
It is in these hard times that three women come together. Nóra Leahy, who, within the space of a year, has lost first her daughter and then her husband, and now is burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál, who has changed from a lively energetic two-year-old to a helpless child unable to walk or speak. Mary Clifford, a fourteen-year-old girl who Nóra hires to help care for Micheál, and becomes her eyes and ears in the village, where people whisper of otherworldly interference in his condition. And Nance Roche, a herbalist and a healer, who is reputed to be able to commune with the Good People, and is Nora’s only hope in her quest to get her grandson back.
This book is utterly absorbing. Kent has built a truly believable world, where the hardship and turmoil of the times immerses the reader and draws them into Nóra’s life. Her tragedies are very real, and her obsession with finding a cure for her grandson heartbreaking. The dynamics between the villagers is expertly exposed and the suspicion and mistrust of this closely bound community, whose fear of the unknown is fuelled by the priest, Father Healy, is countered brilliantly by their desperate need for answers to their problems and a cure for their ailments. Told from the point of view of each of the three women, the story unfolds at a natural pace, the rising tension keeping the reader on edge and burning the midnight oil.
Highly recommended.
Review first published on my blog http://sonyaspreenbates.wordpress.com . ( )
  ssbates | Mar 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
While holding few surprises, The Good People is a gripping, adept and intelligent reconstruction of the past. As in Burial Rites, although perhaps without quite the same force, Kent brings her sympathetic, detailed eye to the cramped lives of ordinary women before the dawn of any concept of individual women's rights.
The empathy Kent has for her characters is intense, and she affords them nuance and complexity: there is merit and fault in each of them. The confusion, incomprehension and torment the three central women suffer in the novel’s final act are keenly rendered.
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When all is said and done, how do we not know but that our own unreason ay be better than another's truth?
for it has been warmed on our hearts and in our souls,
and is ready for the wild bees of truth to hive in it, and
make their sweet honey. Come into the world again,
wild bees, wild bees!

W.B.Yeats, The Celtic Twilight
For my sister, Briony.
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Nóra’s first thought when they brought her the body was that it could not be her husband’s.
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In the year 1825, in a remote valley lying between the mountains of south-west Ireland, near the Flesk river of Killarney, three women are brought together by strange and troubling events.

Nòra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheal. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nora hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow's house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheal. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said the old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken.
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