- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Picador Australia (29 August 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1760550868
- ISBN-13: 978-1760550868
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 299 g
- Customer Reviews: 279 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Good People Paperback – 29 August 2017
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About the Author
Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she travelled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir. Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel.
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On the one hand the topic of fairy lore was fascinating but the setting in rural Ireland in the early 1800s was never going to be an easy or delightful read. Add to that we get, deaths, a disabled child, hunger, poverty, cold, homesickness, child labour, poor health conditions, wife beatings, superstition and the wrath of the church, well you get the picture. This is not a book you would be choosing for reading on a summer holiday at the beach. It is more suited to the cold harshness of winter, when you can snuggle down in front of the fire.
Over all, there is a sense of doom that hangs over these characters. Kent paints us a picture of life for women without men trying to survive a harsh life. Nora loses her husband not long after their daughter has died and they are coping with raising a disabled four year old in a tiny village on the side of an mountain where the old ways are deeply imbedded. She enlists the help on a young girl, Mary to take care of Michael. But grief sets in and Nora finds it increasingly hard to cope with the villagers suspicions that Michael is one of Them, a changling.
Nance the local " handy woman" sets her mind to helping her drive the fairies out of him and allow the real Michael to return from being swept away by Them, the Good People. Can Nances herbs and potions cure Michael? As with small villages everyone has something to say. For all the grimness of this era we still see the goodness and certainly plenty of evil that a small community has. Surprisingly a positive note can be taken by the end of the story.
I feel the story lost its way some what towards the middle of the story, often repeating it self. Perhaps we could have gotten to the climax sooner. I found that I was sometimes getting confused with the lesser characters as there we many side stories. I loved young Mary and could never imagine living her life or sending my children out to work at such an age. But it was a different era and it was more than likely you would be dead before forty.
For the most part I found the book to be interesting and thankful that I was born when I was. Let's call it an educational read rather than enjoyable.
Top international reviews
If a reader starts this book in the most cheerful frame of mind imaginable, I guarantee that by the final page he/she will be in the depths of despair and reaching for a large glass of wine!
I have to say this is a very well researched book, most of the places are familiar to me and much of the folklore is similar to what we were told through stories in our childhood. My father would tell stories of people being "taken" by the fairies or people who suffered misforntune after having damaged "Fairy Forts".
Even though this story was written about early 19th century rural life much of this folklore still lingers in rural Ireland in the 21st century. A great work of fiction based on rural life in Ireland.
Her depiction of the countryside - harsh but beautiful is powerful.
Despite the alien lives of the characters they display emotions we recognuse- bullying, abuse of power, dishonesty, suspicion of outsiders but also decency and compassion.
Some readers might find the first half of the book fanciful with the obsession with the little people (fairies) but most of the time I was able to believe that for especially women of that time, the fairies were as believable or even more believable than the Hell and other fantasies of the Catholic church.