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Good Behaviour

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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,626 ratings  ·  168 reviews
I do know how to behave - believe me, because I know. I have always known...'

Behind the gates of Temple Alice the aristocratic Anglo-Irish St Charles family sinks into a state of decaying grace. To Aroon St Charles, 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 behaviour. But crum
...more
Paperback, 245 pages
Published December 15th 2005 by Virago (first published April 12th 1981)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,626 ratings  ·  168 reviews


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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
Mariel
Sep 11, 2015 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
...more
David
Nov 07, 2008 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
Sarah
Aug 15, 2014 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
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Liina Bachmann
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, favorites
"Good Behaviour" is an exquisite read.
Aroon St Charles is a daughter of Irish upper class family, a "Big House" family in the country. She narrates the going on's of her life and boy, is it vile. The book is most often described as a dark comedy and it is indeed very funny at times but mostly it makes the little hair on your back rise and groan with frustration at Aroon's naivety. A distant mother, drunkard father,gay brother, many deaths...all masked under the icy Good Behaviour. Nothing is ev
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Leslie
4.5*

Aroon St. Charles is an unlovely character but pitiable in her naiveté (or was it willful ignorance?). As she narrates the tale of her life, imagining herself to be, if not the heroine, the sympathetic protagonist, what clearly comes across to the reader is a different picture than she desires. For example, Aroon tells herself & the reader that (view spoiler) It is obvious to the reader (and indeed to several of the other characters) that instead
...more
Claire Fuller
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Love, love, loved this book. Beautiful writing, sad story, great characters. Oh, just go and read it. The only thing I found odd was that Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift which I read last year, was so very similar, so similar that I'm surprised no one has pointed this out. Same time period, and similar things happen, although Swift's is set in England and this is Ireland. Made me feel a bit weird about Mothering Sunday.
Arlette
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I shall be careful when referring to "warming feet"....... hate to get that mis-interpreted:)
Claire
The protagonist of Good Behaviour is Iris Aroon St Charles, daughter of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, who grows up with her brother Hubert in ‘Temple Alice’ one of the ‘Big Houses’, built by an ancestor as his temporary residence until inheriting his titles and estates.
Now the title extinct and estates entirely dissipated, Temple Alice, after several generations as a dower house (a house intended as the residence of a widow), came to Mummie when her mother died. Papa farmed the miserably f
...more
Gabrielle Dubois
I started this book without knowing what it was about, and very little commitment to read it because of the cover: a painting by Meredith Frampton, Portrait of a young Woman - The woman in the portrait looks pinched, scornful, stuck.
Anyway, I opened this book anyway, because I was on vacation abroad, - see my blog post Ellen versus Warriors - and it was the only book I had taken with me that I had left to read! I must say that the first few pages have put me off - none of the characters are symp
...more
Annikky
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
It's not you, Molly, it's me. You write brilliantly and you know humans all too well. It's just that very few things frustrate me as much as people who deliberately delude themselves, so I just couldn't stand Aroon. I know, it's all bleak humor, but I mostly found it just bleak, without anything to help me enjoy the book but your way with words and the genius balancing of everybody's unlikability - which is a lot, I admit. So wth your permission, I'll continue to admire Good Behaviour, but I can ...more
Trish
Just not my cup of tea. I couldn't even figure out if it was supposed to be funny or just sad.

I definitely seem to have different tastes to the rest of my book club (although that said, most of them didn't like any of the characters in this, either, so maybe we were in sync this time).

It also supports my view that I have different tastes to the Man Booker Prize committee, as well - I'd never have nominated this.
A. Mary
Dec 31, 2012 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
Ali
Mar 06, 2016 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
Mela
I stood about, smiling, compressed, submerged in politeness; aching in my isolation; longing to be alone; to be away; to be tomorrow's person

It wasn't a light novel. All that sadness and loneliness. Reading it hurt me and (because of it) I had been thinking (in the beginning) even of abandoning it, of not finishing it.

Certainty fell away from me as though a loved person dropped my hand in indifference.

One is sure: The book is worth reading. It wasn't a world of Angela Thirkell's books, it showed
...more
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
Ape
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tania
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middlebrow, irish, virago
I did pity Aroon, the narrator, but I found it quite hard to like her.
Geoff Wooldridge
Jun 11, 2015 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
...more
Nancy
Nov 23, 2011 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
...more
Mary Durrant
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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!
Alex
Dec 05, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From a list of someone or other's favorite books, and it just seems like a very good list in general. ...more
Narges
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a dark novel. I leave it at that. But superb writing.
Geertje
My parents let me buy some books to reward me for getting my MA. I bought some that had been on my TBR for a while, and then I also bought some of the Virago Designer Collection hardcovers; I normally don't buy hardcovers, because they are expensive, and so I thougth I might as well use this moment to treat myself.

I had heard of some of the books I bought (e.g. A Far Cry From Kensington), had even wanted to read some of them (e.g. The Magic Toyshop), but there are also a number I bought just fo
...more
Jonathan
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I feel I should have enjoyed this more than I did. It did make me laugh occasionally, but overall I found the story of a decaying lifestyle, an unappreciated and deluded central character, and tragedy following tragedy all a bit depressing. There was quite a pleasing change of circumstances at the end, but this was, of course, hard come by. An interesting style of writing however, and I did quite like the narrator, Aroon.
Waterstones Peterborough
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jonathan, catherine
Darkly funny but moving novel set in the early decades of the last century.
Damian Moloney
Amusing.
WndyJW
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
Pam
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
even though it's only january i have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite books of the year, i'm so glad i decided to pick it up right away when i heard that virago was doing a book club! it was sad and fun and cozy all at the same time, you get completely sucked into the world, it's one of those situations where you miss the world when you aren't reading, for me Aroon is such a sympathetic character, like her father i was on her side the entire time, even when little bits of her mom ...more
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Reading Works By ...: Molly Keane 2 6 Dec 12, 2017 09:24PM  

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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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