Good Behaviour
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Good Behaviour

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  602 ratings  ·  41 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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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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Reminded me of 'I capture the castle' by Dodie Smith. If you liked that one, you're sure to love this.
This book is clearly very well-written, and I am not surprised it was nominated for the Booker Prize. I personally found it bleak and grim. If you grew up with parents like Aroon's - mostly distant and self-absorbed - this book is not funny, but acutely painful. The cruelty and almost sang-froid that underlies so many scenes in the book - for example, the vicious mockery of the warm, caring Mrs. Brock, after her death by suicide - really does have what one reviewer called "nihilistic" overtones....more
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
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.
Take three parts Brideshead Revisited and one part Gormenghast; spice with copious bathos.
Susan Kavanagh
A terrific book that looks behind the veil of "Good Behavior" presented by an Ango-Irish upper crust family between the wars. A satire that deserves reading alongside Evelyn Waugh. This author wrote a number of books under the pseudynom M.J Farrell when she was young, between 1928 and 1952. She wrote this book while in her late sixties and was rewarded with a well deserved Booker nomination.
Slow in a good way. Populated with characters who were difficult to like and about things I don't really like to read about (rich people problems) but it was biting and clever and very, very compelling, even though the deck was stacked against it based on my personal interests.
A weird and darkly comical look at a rather harsh Edwardian childhood in the Anglo-Irish upper class. (I hesitate between 3&4 stars, really. Mainly because it also has its longueurs and isn't in the end quite as trenchant as Compton-Burnett, for instance, can sometimes be.) Powerful antidote to the rosy nostalgia many TV costume dramas conjure up.
It provided me with a bit lighter and somewhat comical touch to my reading, although there was an undercurrent of sorrow throughout. The protagonist Aroon was very appealing and I identified with her but there were no happy endings for her. She was ultimately trapped in a family web from which she didn't know how to escape.
Gabriele Wills
With glowing remarks from writers I respect, like P.D. James, I expected a lot more from this book. But I found it difficult to engage with - satire or not - primarily because most of the characters were quite unsympathetic. I also didn't get a very good sense of time and place. Disappointing to say the least.
Stephanie G.
Irish country life between the Wars ... evocative and darkly humorous, with one of the most wonderful main characters who's the ugly daughter of a beautiful mother and who falls in love with a totally inappropriate man, only to win over them all at the very end, and rightly so. What a character study.
I finished this thinking that the gap of years we are not told about in relation to the beginning of this story may have been similar to Little Edie and Big Edie Beale but with really impeccable manners....
Dark, depressing, well-written, witty yet ominous. Difficult to read because of the overwhelming sinisterness yet you can't get yourself to stop. Read for my Contemporary British Women Writers class.
I quite enjoyed part and its humour. Incredibly sad that she loved a man and there was nothing there but how the mind can play tricks and think that there is more. Tis sometimes the perils of life!
Awesome! A crumbling Irish estate in the 1920s, completely delusional family members who spend their time making each other miserable with cutting remarks and gross food. So dark and funny. Love.
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Molly Keane initially wrote under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell. Most of her earlier work was published under this name.
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