Good Behaviour – Molly Keane

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The bookshop owner said she’d just finished this and kept accidentally referring to it as ‘Bad Behaviour’ which I think says it all. Everyone here functions on their own terms and for their own ends. The art of Keane’s writing is that she has created characters that do awful things but seem not to be completely awful themselves. People do things mistakenly, out of misjudged love or hope or impulse. There is a lot of love but it is often either miscommunicated or misunderstood. There are also a lot of caricatures and absurdities but they hardly stand out in the bizarre world we are thrown into.

We see it all through the eyes of Aroon, the daughter of an aristocratic Irish family in the early part of the 1900s. Aroon doesn’t always quite understand what is going on around her, initially because she is a child and later perhaps because she continues to be treated like a child. This does mean that you are never entirely sure what is actually going on which just adds to the oddness. There is something so basic and understandable in Aroon’s yearning to be loved that you struggle to judge her too harshly.

No-one in this is wholly good or bad or even sane, but despite them being bonkers they are occasionally very insightful or relatable.

From: A lovely little bookshop in Nailsworth, where I went in saying ‘I’ll just fill my pockets’ and left with armfuls of books for our walk home

Read: while ‘snowed in’ and therefore forced to sit on the sofa, read and eat biscuits – it’s a hard life.

Felt: so bombarded by absurdities so that by half way through I was startled every time anyone seemed to have any sense or do anything normal.

Would recommend: this is a quick and interesting read. Because the narrator doesn’t always understand what is going on you have to do a bit of guesswork which actually makes it quite an engaging read.


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