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Good Behaviour

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  731 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Behind the gates of Temple Alice, the aristocratic Anglo-Irish St Charles family sinks into a state of decaying grace. To Aroon St Charles, the large and unlovely daughter of the house, the fierce forces of sex, money, jealousy, and love seem locked out by the ritual patterns of good behavior. But crumbling codes of conduct cannot hope to save the members of the St Charles ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Virago UK (first published April 12th 1981)
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Fionnuala
When I read this in the early eighties, it was a huge eye opener for several reasons. It was probably one of the first contemporary novels that made me think - ah, now I know what is meant by a classic. Even though I was a fairly unsophisticated reader at the time, I could tell that the writing was superb, I just knew that the characters were true to life, and I even suspected that they were portraits of real people. I admired the way Molly Keane was able to ridicule all our human foibles while ...more
David
Another Anglo-Irish family whose members are dedicated to mutual assured destruction, even as they slide into genteel poverty. Nobody in the St Charles household would dream of treating the dogs or horses badly; servants and local tradesmen don't fare so well. But the brunt of their vituperation is saved for one another, with each family member nursing a store of petty grievances, both real and imaginary. Our guide for this particular version of hell is the unlovely, delusional daughter of the h ...more
Nancy
I loved this book,but at the same time found it profoundly unsettling. Described as a comedy of manners, it is at the very least, a black, black comedy. The "well-born" family at the heart of the story dissemble, deceive and distort at every step along the way. Molly Keane has masterfully crafted a cast of characters that are so perfectly presented we would immediately recognize each one if they walked into a room today. In this quirky family story no good deed goes unpunished
And there is precio
...more
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
The St Charles family hit hard times in this 1920s drama set in Ireland. Short of cash and initiative, their estate is in genteel decline. An overweight daughter, philandering father and a cold mother struggle to maintain an aristocratic façade of Good Behaviour. Stars Frances Tomelty, Annette Crosbie and Ronald Pickup.

Molly Keane's novel was dramatised by Shelagh Stephenson. Produced by Eoin O'Callaghan.
Cherie In the Dooryard
I originally read this book while on semester abroad in Ireland. It was presented as an Irish classic, the great comeback from a neglected author. I've reread it many times since, but this time I revisited it after finishing Downton Abbey's third season. I wanted to be reminded of the other side of the coin, of what happens when the aristocratic family is unable to change, is locked into destructive patterns, is so entrenched in the idea of good behavior that it destroys itself.

This is a brillia
...more
Susan Johnson
Not my cup of tea.
Linda

The first chapter made me wonder who this horrid woman was, and why she hated her mother so much that she felt the need to torture her on her deathbed.

Then the rest of the book explained exactly that, and I rather regretted wanting to know.

Having finished the book feels rewarding, and I see why some consider it a modern classic. The process of reading it, however, was no fun at all, and it was only because it was a book club book that I stuck it out.

I felt so sorry for the wretched Aroon. That i
...more
Claire
I love books like this - where you may think one thing about the narrator in the beginning, but see different truths by the end. This is the story of Iris Aroon St. Charles, an unattractive girl from an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family in the 1920s. It tells the story of her family's troubles and their slide into decay as she recounts her schoolroom days, the death of her brother, and her (perceived?) travails at the hands of her mother and - to a lesser extent - father.

Aroon feels excluded from
...more
Deanne
A novel of it's time, the main character is a woman I felt sorry for, especially as her perception of how others see her is so different to the truth. Loved the end.
Tarma
Got almost halfway through it, but I am very tired of reading about a "sorta not rich" rich family wasting it's days away, presumably (going by the first chapter which then leads into a flashback) eventually wasting itself away to nothing. However, since they're all extraordinarily boring people and not one of them has shown even a spark of personality to catch my interest, and since they're taking their sweet time about it if that is indeed what is coming, I've decided I can't really be bothere ...more
A. Mary
This is a solid novel that grimly marches through its story, jaw firmly set, while onlookers watch in disbelief--how can this plot be sustained by these characters? But it is sustained because that's what these characters do, in spite of their fraying, worn-thin elbows. There's almost no one to like in this book, not even Aroon, who narrates. We can't believe how thick she is, how deluded, but Keane doesn't let her story be simplistic. Aroon has been so isolated, kept in ignorance, that she know ...more
Valerie
The title says a lot. We meet and follow Aroon St. Charles from childhood through to the death of her mother. The St. Charles' are an old Anglo-Irish aristocratic family, but their estate is crumbling and their means are diminished. Aroon is too large, too greedy, and too needy to naturally exercise the frigid good behavior necessary to maintain appearances amidst her family's decline. But she is subjected by her parents and others to indifference, neglect, and humiliation. The result is that Ar ...more
Nicky
Thought I'd give this book a go because it was advertised in the back of Tin Toys Trilogy by Ursula Holden, probably my favourite book from last year. I was also lured in by the Virago Modern Classics Designer edition hardback. I've got a couple of these, they're nice to handle and look well on the shelf.

Good Behaviour deals with the decline of an upper-class Anglo-Irish family as the money starts to run out and the family's values and behaviours become anachronistic. I didn't particularly enjo
...more
Abbey
Aug 22, 2011 Abbey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abbey by: Bright Young Things group
BOTTOM LINE: Scathing look at Irish county society in the first three decades of the 20th Century. Narrator is almost unlikable, but Keane keeps your affections changing from character to character masterfully, ending with if not your identification with the narrator, then at least an enjoyment of or understanding of, her situation and her life.

Lots of rather nasty, sly people in this book, beautifully sketched, each with some almost-redeeming quality, but there's always a final stab in the rib
...more
Leseratte
Good Behaviour is narrated by Aroon St. Charles, an upper-class Anglo-Irishwoman who lives on the slowly decaying family estate with her parents and brother. Aroon is an outsider from the start; educated at home by a governess, she has little contact with anyone outside her family, and even they marginalise her. Her cold, distant mother clearly does not love her; her hedonistic father shows her affection only sporadically, when he isn't busy chasing foxes and women; her brother is more intereste ...more
Ellen
A young woman scorned by her too-proper aristocrat Anglo-Irish mum bears the full weight of disapproval and disappointment after her beloved brother dies and her father is crippled.
Mary
What a wonderful book.
One that when I finished I wanted to read all over again.
A dark comedy, very engaging and beautifully written.
A by gone era of aristocratic families coming on hard times.
I loved it!
Carol
This novel is about a landed gentry Anglo-Irish family at the beginning of the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of the daughter, Aroon. As she grows into adulthood, the family fortunes crumble, and the dark underside that lives beneath the family allegiance to maintaining "good behaviour" is revealed. It's a shame that the book comes off as quite dull for several stretches, because, as a whole, it's a wonderfully subtle and sharp piece of satire and irony. There's a lot of sly comedy in th ...more
Liz Bowsher
Great rollicking book - the précis of the novel says it all. Well written from an interesting vantage point.
Annemariem
Reminded me of 'I capture the castle' by Dodie Smith. If you liked that one, you're sure to love this.
Carole Landry
I read that this was my favorite author's favorite book...tres disappointed.
Michele
A dark and bitter read but like the best chocolate rather delicious and to be savored.
There is not a redeeming character to be found, Aroon St Charles seems almost ridiculously naive but still one feels for her particularly at the horrendous hunt ball.
I am reminded of Phillip Larkin's poem "This be the verse" and also Anne Fine's "In Cold Domain", both of which are finely drawn portraits of the damage families in particular can do to all within their ranks . Sadly, in this case the damage inflic
...more
Idiosyncratic
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jackie
I liked the first three chapters and then it got a bit slow and dark. Glad I stayed with it, the last quarter of the book was certainly worth it.
I've re-rated this as a four as the poignancy and the tragedy of the story has stayed with me. The recounting of what happened when she met her father's old friend for her father's funeral was a black but comic, and I could see this dramatised. I warmed to the story teller, but re-reading the first pages of the book after finishing, you see the full tr
...more
Pamela
It really was so good and the end so satisfying.
Debbie
Highly recommend.
Book Chat
Brilliant Molly Keane (AKA M.J. Farrell) at her glittering best. This is the novel that lost out in the 1981 Booker prize to Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. Written in 1981, Good Behaviour is an expose of early twentieth century Irish society. It's all in there, the distant mother, the gay brother and a similarly inclined love interest.....but all hidden beneath the surface of a society focused upon good behaviour.
www.mollykeane.com
Pixelnyx
Take three parts Brideshead Revisited and one part Gormenghast; spice with copious bathos.
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Molly Keane (20 July 1904 – 22 April 1996) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born Mary Nesta Skrine in Ryston Cottage,Newbridge, County Kildare).

Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote 11 novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell.

(from Wikipedia)
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