28 September 2016

Review: The Good People by Hannah Kent

The Good People by Hannah Kent book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was a sensation a few years ago and readers who loved it will also enjoy her latest novel The Good People. Despite being set in different countries, both novels are set in the early 1800s and contain Hannah Kent's ability to conjure and describe the landscape, lifestyle and superstitions of the time.

Set in Ireland in 1825, in a small rural community full of Gaelic superstitions and folklore, the novel is essentially about the lives of Nance (an elderly healing woman) and the recently widowed Nora.

Incredibly evocative, the lives of these two women intersect and slowly build towards a climax that demonstrates just how little control women had over their lives at the time.

Inspired by a true event in history (just as Burial Rites was), Hannah Kent's signature writing style creates a dark and fearful atmosphere that had me worrying for Nance.

Here's a quote from Page 257:
"Sean knocked the feathers out of Peter. Punched him everywhere except the roof of his mouth and the soles of his feet, as I heard it. Brought him down into the mud and stomped the face of him so that, once the men had dragged Sean off - swinging all the while - the bellows boy was out in the yard, picking teeth like flowers."
Another memorable quote from Nance on Page 261:
"Sean Lynch has been against me for long years. If I had it in for him, he'd have been pissing bees and coughing crickets long before now."
I just love the visual of picking teeth like flowers and coughing crickets. In January 2014 I wondered if Burial Rites was a one-off (based on her intense personal connection) and if Hannah Kent could throw herself with equal abandon into another novel. A few years on and she's answered my question without doubt. The Good People is just as descriptive and emotive as her award winning debut, I just didn't find the actual story as engaging or all-encompassing.

Recommended for readers of historical fiction.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Reading The Good People better prepared me to understand several episodes in the TV series Outlander, which dealt with faeries and changelings. Without this historical novel under my belt, I wouldn't have understood half of what was going on.

Would you like to comment?

  1. I loved Burial Rites and I too was worried that it couldn't be repeated. Lovely to hear its a great read, I'll add it to the must buy list.

  2. Thanks Jess, your 'must buy list' must be getting a little long, is it? ;-)


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!