The Good People
Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent’s remarkable new novel, The Good People, is set in an isolated valley in the west of Ireland early in the 19th-century.

Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow’s house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken …

Hannah Kent’s first novel, Burial Rites, was acclaimed worldwide and it went on to be shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Stella Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. There are echoes of Burial Rites in The Good People. Both are historical novels in which human tragedy plays out against the rhythms of the natural world, and once again Kent displays an amazing ability to immerse herself in an unfamiliar landscape and to give that landscape life and voice.  In The Good People the central characters wonderfully complex allowing the reader to feel both repulsed and intensely empathetic all at the same time.

I adored this novel.

The Death of Bunny Munro
Nick Cave

Nick Cave brings his talent for exploring the more depraved parts of humanity while maintaining eloquence and a real talent for telling a story to his second novel The Death of Bunny Munro.

The Death of Bunny Munro tells the story of Bunny Munro, a beauty products salesman who travels the South Coast of England hawking his most definitely useless beauty products (he refers to this as “selling hope”) to lonely housewives.

Upon the sudden suicide of his wife he decides to take his son, Bunny Junior, on one final ride through England’s South Coast. I say one last ride because along with an all-consuming obsession with women and sex (especially Avril Lavinge) Bunny is carrying an intense anxiety and dread that soon his life will end.

This is a story of a bad man who was never meant to be a father, his heartbreakingly innocent son and his last ditch effort to outrun a monster he can’t comprehend. He describes it as his own death but we might get the impression he’s running from his own sins, his own guilt and in a tragically doomed way he’s trying to protect his son from a monster he can’t see nor understand.

I’ve always been impressed by writers who can make us sympathise with terrible people, (Cormac McCarthy with his novel Child of God springs to mind) it takes a real understanding of the complexities of people to translate that into writing. This novel could have so easily been, in another less talented authors hands, a trite, crass and shallow mess. But in the hands of a master storyteller like Nick Cave we’re left with a haunting, heart breaking, complex and tragic tale of a man desperate for redemption – even if he won’t admit it to himself.

I always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges
Crow Books
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