I’m not sure what I was expecting when I bought Good Behaviour by Molly Keane. To be perfectly honest, I bought it for the cover primarily- as I mentioned in the Book Porn post, I couldn’t resist a book with bunnies designed by Eley Kishimoto (the design is called ‘Bunny Dance’. How could I not?) so I had no idea if I would actually like the story within the gorgeous cover. As it turns out, I did. Described as a black comedy, I found it to be far less funny than this suggests. The humour is of the uncomfortable kind, where you want to hide behind a cushion until it’s over, but it worked really well in the context of the narrative. It’s the story of Aroon St Charles, the daughter of an impoverished Anglo-Irish family in the early Twentieth century. It begins with matricide. From there, the narrative goes back to Aroon’s childhood and her experiences with unrequited love, a suicidal governess, a disturbed and loveless relationship with her mother and her desire for her father to notice her. Put in those basic terms, it sounds much less enjoyable than it actually it. The characters are really well-written, and each emotion is concisely put out in the open for the reader to feel. Aroon is not a likable character, but she is interesting in her naivety and snobbery, and knowing how the narrative ends/the book begins makes the tale compulsive reading.
I generally try to avoid books that come with such heavy recommendations. For example, I’ve never read White Teeth. The reviews were so gushing that I feel as if the reality of the book could never live up to them. I’m willing to be told differently, but until then it shall remain unread. One Day by David Nicholls was another novel with largely very positive reviews and so I hadn’t read it until about a week ago. This was my mistake – I’m so annoyed that I didn’t read this book when it came out. I could have had two more years of Emma and Dexter, damn it!
Needless to say, I loved this novel. I had read Starter for 10, also by Nicholls, and really liked his style. It’s refreshing to find a what is essentially a love story written so beautifully by a man, without making the female lead character secondary (I’m quite jaded at the moment, apologies). The structure, with each chapter concentrating on the experiences of either Dexter, Emma, or both together, on every 15th July for 2o years, will probably be something that you like or find intensely irritating. I quite liked it, as it means that each chapter of the book is also a chapter of their lives. They vary in length, with some allowing the reader to really see what’s happening with the character and others just giving a little intriguing glimpse. The only real problem that I found with this was when things had happened in the year between chapters which were only mentioned in passing. This became particularly irritating near the end where I wanted more details, but overall it wasn’t really something which put me off – maybe I’m just demanding?
Throughout the book I experienced pretty much every common emotion, except for fear. I laughed, cried (a LOT), wanted to throw things at both of the main characters, and then wanted to hug them. It’s a book which I’ll read again and again, despite knowing the ‘twist’, and one which I’ll always wish that I’d found sooner. And now I’m going to stop gushing. Yes.
P. S. The film, whilst not a patch on the book, was nowhere near as bad as the reviews said, and Jim Sturgess was brilliant (and a total babe).