Family, Historical Fiction

The Good People by Hannah Kent

I’ve been seeing this book everywhere and I really liked the premise of the story. It hints at fairy lore and herbs and changelings, as well as featuring 3 women as the main characters. I was really excited to read this book. So here is my review:

Hedged in by gossip and joined by their desperation, three women in 19th-century Ireland are drawn together in the hope of rescuing a child from a superstitious community, determined to rid itself of the strange and unknowable. After the loss of her husband, Nora is the sole caretaker of her young grandson, Michael – a boy who had one time had been hale and hearty but now, can no longer speak or walk. Nora hires a servant, Mary, to help her take care of the child. But just as Mary starts working, rumors abound about Michael: that he is a changeling child, bringing ill fortune upon everyone in the valley. Determined to get rid of the evil in Michael, Nora and Mary seek the help of Nance, an elderly recluse once revered for her healing powers, but now condemned by the new priest.  As the trio’s situation grows more dire, their folkloric practices become increasingly daring, culminating in a stunning and irreversible act that will put all their lives in danger.

I’m still unsure of my feelings on this book but I’m going to try my best to figure this out. First of all, the writing is beautiful. This is a slow-paced story because the author focuses more on the details. You can tell it has been well-researched from the way the author describes 19th century Ireland, with its herb lore, and the superstitions regarding the fae or good people (the term used here in this novel). The novel is told from 3 perspectives: Mary, Nance, and Nora. These women are bonded together by Michael, Nora’s grandson who is different from other children developmentally. I think the author did a great job of depicting these women (as well as other characters in the book) and the way they changed through their experiences. While I may not have loved all of them, I understood them and could connect with them emotionally. I really liked that the author made it hard for the reader to guess what illness Michael had; it took the attention away from the illness and focused more on the plights of the women and Michael. As I mentioned earlier, the story was slow in its pacing, which meant that there were times when I felt that the story was too detailed and dragged in plot. However, this helped me understand more about the Irish culture, which I know nothing about. I don’t want to give away too much by telling you my thoughts on how the novel ended. Suffice to say that while it made me sad, it also was a good way of cementing the story back into reality and it tied everything up. I wish the story hadn’t been so dismal but some stories aren’t meant to be happy, and this was one of them. If you like stories that are steeped in Irish culture and deal with stigma and superstition, you would probably like this one. If you like more fast-paced novels, then this would definitely not work for you. Even though it was a bit too slow and sad for my liking, I think the quality of the writing and the story itself were quite good, which is why I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

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