The Good People
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'Exquisite' – Daily Mail
Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize
One woman's mercy is another's murder . . .
Nóra, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?
Mary arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.
Nance's knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.
As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.
'A starkly realised tale of love, grief and misconceived beliefs' – Sunday Times
'An imaginative tour de force . . . exquisite' – Daily Mail
Kent conjures up with exceptional intensity and empathy a world in which folk beliefs hold as much sway over people’s minds as religious faith . . . It would have been all too easy to present this story as a conflict between rational enlightenment and peasant superstition, but the main strength of Kent’s narrative is that it avoids such a simple dichotomy. 'I have told you my truth,' Nance tells the court during the trial scenes that provide the book’s climax. Such is the power of Kent’s imaginative sympathy with her characters that this becomes not merely the mantra of a deluded old woman, but a moving statement of her continuing faith in her own vision of the way the world works . . . The Good People is an even better novel than Burial Rites — a starkly realised tale of love, grief and misconceived beliefs
Lyrical and unsettling, The Good People is a vivid account of the contradictions of life in rural Ireland in the 19th century. A literary novel with the pace and tension of a thriller, Hannah Kent takes us on a frightening journey towards an unspeakable tragedy. I am in awe of Kent's gifts as a storyteller.
Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train
The Good People is a novel about how competing systems of thought - religious, medical, folkloric and, eventually, legal - attempt to make sense of the bad stuff that happens. Significantly, the novel is set in a valley, a place cut off from the outside world. The community – and the novel – feels claustrophobic. The characters are trapped in their crucible of mutterings and gossip by a combination of geography, ancestry and poverty. It is to Kent’s credit that she never passes judgment on her protagonists’ beliefs, even as they lead them to ever more extreme, even insane, behaviour . . . Kent has a terrific feel for the language of her setting. The prose is richly textured with evocative vocabulary – skib, spancel, creepie stool . . . the overall result is to transport the reader deep into the rural Irish hinterlands. This is a serious and compelling novel about how those in desperate circumstances cling to ritual as a bulwark against their own powerlessness
Graeme Macrae Burnet, Guardian