The Good People - Hannah Kent

Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: County Kerry, Ireland, 1825. Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. 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, Nóra 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 Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that 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...


Review: Right, so I really enjoyed this book, although I think my enjoyment may have been somewhat biased - both in favour of, and against the book. Let me explain. First, I've read Burial Rites. I've read this woman's writing before. I know she's not from outside Killarney, County Kerry - because I am. But I'll tell you something - she could have fooled me with this book. She has the language, the landscape, the nuances of Irish life and culture and superstition from almost 200 years ago down to an absolute tee, even using a plethora of terms as Gaeilge (in Irish). I promise you, everything about this authentic. Once again, she has taken an old historical case and used her immense storytelling talent in conjunction with hard research to create an enthralling tale.

The way in which I'm perhaps a little biased against this book, is that, because of its familiarity to me, it perhaps wasn't as immersive and insightful as it would be to non-Irish folk. That's likely the only reason that it didn't quite bag five stars from me. But aside from that, it's a great read. I was expecting most of the book, pretty much from the outset, and I felt the quiet horror that the modern day educated person feels at the needless suffering of those in the past. But I wasn't quite expecting the ending, and found that particularly interesting. I don't want to spoil anything, but what I will say is that I found myself both unsettled by and sympathetic to how embedded certain beliefs can be in people. And what does that say for the people of this day and age?

Overall, another absolute gem from Hannah Kent.

Rating: 4/5

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