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Good Behaviour

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  983 Ratings  ·  84 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, 245 pages
Published December 15th 2005 by Virago (first published April 12th 1981)
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Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourtCircle of Friends by Maeve BinchyIn the Woods by Tana FrenchDubliners by James JoyceTara Road by Maeve Binchy
Best Fiction Set in Ireland
47th out of 347 books — 322 voters
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Man Booker Shortlist
24th out of 223 books — 28 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,602)
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Sep 11, 2015 Mariel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: a globe revolving
Recommended to Mariel by: you can't mean it
She must have noticed my bosoms, swinging like jelly bags, bouncing from side to side; without words she conveyed the impression of what she had seen as unseemly- the Fat Lady in the peepshow.

Aroon St Charles topsy-turvies the pedestal biosphere that doesn't leave the suffocating family life. Oops, heads and tails are the same damn fix. The outside life must look like dim glamour in her imaginations. Other people who don't look like her whirling in arms inside blurry parties. Letters from spoile
Oct 05, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing
The St Charles family are hit by hard and changing times in 1920's Ireland. These are the dying days of Anglo-Irish aristocracy where appearances must be preserved and emotions muted and controlled.

Events are narrated through the eyes of a child, Aroon St Charles, revealing subtle details which are confused and not understood by her, but as a reader reveal the truth she is too young and naive to grasp. Secrets, lies and tragedy surround the family as they each struggle with life events. Aroon's
Jan 27, 2015 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2008 David rated it really liked it
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
Arlette Cox
Oct 18, 2015 Arlette Cox rated it really liked it
I shall be careful when referring to "warming feet"....... hate to get that mis-interpreted:)
May 05, 2016 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Behaviour is a satire with a very dark soul. It’s the sixth Molly Keane novel I have read so far – and in some ways it is pretty familiar – but there is more of the black comedy to this novel – and the characters are brilliantly conceived. I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes this Molly Keane novel so very good – but it really is very, very good. It might be in the wonderful tension between the characters, the spite, misunderstandings so much going on unsaid – the sad loneliness of be ...more
Jul 16, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: quirky
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
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
Aug 12, 2016 Ape rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Geoff Wooldridge
Jun 20, 2015 Geoff Wooldridge rated it really liked it
Good Behaviour was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1981. It was beaten by the best ever Booker Prize winner (IMO), Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. So, it's in good company.

Molly Keane returned with this novel after an extended break to show she has lost nothing of her expertise in story telling.

This is the story of Aroon St Charles, a large and unlovely young woman (with enormous bosoms) and her family's decline.

Once part of the establishment in Irish society, the family falls on har
Jan 17, 2015 Linda rated it liked it

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
A. Mary
Jan 14, 2015 A. Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-novels
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
Feb 15, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
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.
Steve Shilstone
Aug 12, 2016 Steve Shilstone rated it really liked it
Incredibly naive and hefty Aroon stumbles along dreaming impossible dreams in the bosom of her emotionally barricaded and financially stretched Irish aristocratic fox and hounds family.
Susan Johnson
Nov 22, 2014 Susan Johnson rated it did not like it
Not my cup of tea.
Jun 05, 2014 Claire rated it liked it
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
This book was shortlisted for the Booker the year Midnight's Children won, but I had never heard of it until it was discussed on a podcast. It begins with the death of the mother of the protagonist who appears to be very callous about her mother's death. Aroon St. Charles, a tall, heavy Irish girl then looks back on her life trying to understand why her love for her parents and brother was never enough to bring happiness to the family and why she always felt outside the circles of love she despe ...more
May 26, 2012 Deanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy
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.
Feb 21, 2016 Davie rated it really liked it
This is a book that hardly anyone reads anymore, but it falls into one of my favorite categories of novels that dissect polite societies of the recent past, so I loved it. The society under the microscope here is the decaying aristocracy of Anglo-Ireland in the 1920s. An interesting twist is that the "heroine" is an awkward, overweight, un-insightful narrator who is just about impossible to like. Actually, none of the characters are likeable, and the story is full of unsavory revelations about t ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Tarma rated it did not like it
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
Amy Gentry
May 18, 2016 Amy Gentry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spinster-lit
"All my life so far I have done everything for the best reasons and the most unselfish motives. I have lived for the people dearest to me, and I am at a loss to know why their lives have been at times so perplexingly unhappy." This is the cri de coeur of Aroon St. Charles, the towering, bosomy anti-heroine of Molly Keane's 1981 novel "Good Behaviour" — or it would be, if cries of any sort were considered good behavior in Aroon's world. They're not.

Reasons to re-read Irish writer Molly Keane are
Feb 26, 2016 Tristan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really fantastic book and I say that even though it's not the sort of book I would necessarily reach for of my own accord. I heard about it in an interview with Hilary Mantel, in which she was asked which book she reads over and over again, so I decided to give it a whirl. This is my second time reading it and I love it just as much as I did the first, chalking it up as my second favourite novel (my first favourite is Brideshead Revisited). None of the characters are particularly nice- ...more
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
Jan 11, 2014 Nicky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014, virago
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
Aug 22, 2011 Abbey rated it really liked it  ·  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
Aug 12, 2012 Leseratte rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read
* 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list: Family and Self

Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time.
Feb 28, 2016 Kris rated it it was amazing
What a wonderfully written book. I found myself feeling increasingly unlovely and awkward, in sympathy with Aroon, who is not a nice character, but oddly compelling. I especially enjoyed the thread of fantasy romance with Richard, and her decided efforts to make mountains out of molehills, or rather non-existent grains of sand. The supporting cast of characters - memorable and well-drawn, each and every one.
Lane Pybas
This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s completely singular, but I imagine it’s what would have happened if Emily Bronte had decided to write a comedy of manners. Set in early 20th century Ireland, it’s narrated by Aroon, the unwanted and unwitting daughter of the aristocratic St. Charles family. Through her eyes, a twisted tale of familial plotting and codependency unfolds, of which she is merely a pawn. Although the prose is jaunty and muscular, the story offers a very disturbing look at ...more
C N McGrail
Jun 05, 2016 C N McGrail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enchanting novel told through the voice of a character you want to love

Thoroughly enjoyable. Not action packed but full of character so well crafted you believe in them entirely. Aaroon's innocence leaves you feeling you have a secret with the author. A novel which captures the time in which it was set vividly and with sadness.
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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). She grew up at Ballyrankin in County Wexford and was educated at a boarding school in Bray, County Wicklow. She married Bobby Keane, one of a Waterford squirearchical family in 1938 and had two daughters. She used her married name for her later nove ...more
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