Best of Five!
Hannah Kent seems to be fascinated with historical true crime cases. Her Burial Rites was about a woman found guilty of murder in Iceland. The Good People is about the inhabitants of a poor, superstitious valley in Ireland in 1825.
Nóra Leahy has had a year of misfortune. Not long ago, her son-in-law arrived to tell her and her husband, Martin, that their only daughter had died. He brought with him their grandson, Micheál, to care for.
Unfortunately, Micheál at four is not the bright, babbling toddler he was the only other time they saw him. He does not seem to be able to use his limbs and does not talk. Instead, he screams all the time to be fed.
Martin cares for Micheál and gives him affection, but Nóra hides him away from the neighbors. Then Martin dies, falling down suddenly at a crossroads.
The manner of Martin’s death provokes comment but so does the hidden child.
Even after Nóra brings home a hired girl to help with the work of caring for the child, Micheál seems an unbearable burden. Nóra begins to believe that her grandson was “swept away” by the fairies, the Good People, and that she has a fairy child in his place. She consults Nance Roche, an old wise woman who treats the villagers’ ailments.
Nance herself has enemies in the valley. In particular is Kate Lynch, because Nance refuses to help her with a piseóg, or curse, against Kate’s husband, who beats her. Although Nance refuses to deal in curses, Kate leads others to talk of strange dealings when things begin to go wrong for the valley. Also, the new priest, Father Healy, has begun speaking against Nance at mass.
All of this builds a feeling of dread. Kent has beautifully evoked the way that superstition plays a part in the people’s everyday lives. We know something bad will happen; we’re just not sure what.
Although I would have read The Good People anyway, it is a novel for my Walter Scott Prize project. I found it mesmerizing.
8 thoughts on “Day 1206: The Good People”
She seems to do that sense of quiet dread really well. I loved Burial Rites and this sounds great as well!
Because I haven’t read either of them, I want to know if you have a preference of one over the other?
I liked both, but I think I was more impressed by Burial Rites.
It sounds eerily atmospheric.
I loved this book, even though it’s such a sad story. I think I probably preferred it to Burial Rites but I did enjoy that one too.
It’s actually hard to say. Someone asked me which I liked best, and I said Burial Rites, but because it had a huge affect on me when I read it. I thought both were awfully good.