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Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize 2017
County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.
Nora, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheal. Micheal cannot speak and cannot walk and Nora 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 Nora just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheal 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 Micheal.
As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheal, 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.
Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent's startling novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
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 * Sunday Times * 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, like Burial Rites, a thoroughly engrossing entree into the macabre nature of a vanished society, its virtues and its follies and its lethal impulses. The Good People takes us straight to a place utterly unexpected and believable, where amidst the earnest mayhem people impose on each other, there is no patronizing quaintness, but a compelling sense of the inevitability of solemn horrors -- Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's Ark (winner of the Booker Prize) Beautiful . . . the setting and the characters drew me in immediately and kept me completely absorbed -- Claire King, author of The Night Rainbow 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 * Hannah Kent's second novel is a thorough study of the faiths and rituals of a rural community, as well as a poignant portrayal of grief * Financial Times * The Good People transports us to Co Kerry, west Ireland, in 1826 . . . Kent doesn't just show us rural Ireland; she lets us smell it, touch it and feel it too, from the heat of the turf fires to the sharp, bitter smell of a woman, fresh in from the rain . . . The Good People lies somewhere between Andrew Michael Hurley's gothic The Loney and Emma Donoghue's latest novel, The Wonder . . . an absorbing and imaginative novel about superstition and the old ways * Times * Kent's immersion and passion for her subject is evident - even the cadence of the characters' speech in the novel is exact and authentic * Irish Independent * An imaginative tour-de-force that recreates a way of perceiving the world with extraordinary vividness . . . With its exquisite prose, this harrowing, haunting narrative of love and suffering is sure to be a prize-winner * Daily Mail * Hannah Kent has terrific form as a historical novelist - her highly acclaimed debut, Burial Rites, set in a 19th-century Icelandic village, was shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction. This novel, based on a true story, is even better. As the tale slowly builds, Kent creates an immersive, startlingly lyrical portrait of a time when the borders between logic and superstition were dangerously porous and where the Catholic church is determined to strengthen its grip . . . thrillingly alive to the dynamic of poor, close-knit communities, where fear of the outsider trumps reason and compassion * Metro * Remarkable . . . Kent displays an uncanny ability to immerse herself in an unfamiliar landscape and to give that landscape a life - a voice - that is utterly convincing . . . a haunting novel, shrewdly conceived and beautifully written * The Australian * A sensitively drawn tale of love, grief, and terrible loss * The Age * The Good People is a sensitively drawn tale of love, grief, and terrible loss, set in a tiny Irish village in the early 19th century . . . filled with descriptions of ritual and rhythm * Canberra Times * Atmospheric * Good Housekeeping * This disturbing tale of superstition is full of emotion * Woman & Home * The Good People is an even better novel than Burial Rites - a starkly realised tale of love, grief and misconcieved beliefs * Sunday Times * Beautifully written . . . gripping * Grazia * Gripping and compelling * Mail on Sunday * This novel is about love and its limitations * Psychologies * Kent has a wonderful talent for taking fragments of historical facts and breathing life into them through her fiction. She has matched her debut with another disturbing and haunting novel * Sunday Herald * Hauntingly poetic and evocative * Daily Express * An intricate, heartbreaking portrayal of three women and the conflict between religious belief and folklore * Stylist *