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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681375298
Pages: 320
Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Good Behaviour

by Molly Keane, introduction by Amy Gentry

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May 2021 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club.

Is it possible to kill with kindness? As Molly Keane’s Booker Prize–short-listed dark comedy suggests, not only can kindness be deadly, it just may be the best form of revenge. The novel opens as Aroon St. Charles prepares to serve her invalid mother a splendid luncheon—the silver gleams, the linens glow—of rabbit mousse, a dish her mother despises. In fact, a single whiff of the stuff is enough to knock the old lady dead. “All my life so far I have done everything for the best reasons and the most unselfish motives,” says Aroon soon after. In the pages that follow she will make her case, reminiscing about her youth among the hunting-and-fishing classes of Ireland, a faded aristocracy dedicated to distraction even as their fortunes dwindle. Keane’s brilliant sleight of hand is to allow her blinkered heroine to narrate her own development from neglected child, to ungainly debutante, to bitter spinster: Aroon understands nothing, yet she reveals all.


Keane has set herself a technical challenge. She must make us see all the things that Aroon doesn’t see. . . . There are many moments of brilliant, farcical comedy. . . . Keane’s prose roils with affect denied but persistently, pungently alive.
—Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

Molly Keane's Good Behaviour presents a character whose own strict Christian code wreaks havoc on all those around her. Though she herself tells the tale, we somehow see her morality's disastrous consequences. Hilarious and sinister.
—Allan Gurganus, The New York Times

I really wish I had written this book. It’s a tragi-comedy set in Ireland after the First World War. A real work of craftsmanship, where the heroine is also the narrator, yet has no idea what is going on. You read it with mounting horror and hilarity as you begin to grasp her delusion.
—Hilary Mantel

A fine novel, wickedly alive.
—Victoria Glendinning, The Sunday Times

Dark, complex, engaging . . . a wonderful tour de force.
—Marian Keyes

I have read and re-read Molly Keane more, I think, than any other writer. Nobody else can touch her as a satirist, tragedian, and dissector of human behaviour. I love all her books, but Good Behaviour  and  Loving and Giving are the ones I return to most.
—Maggie O’Farrell

—Edna O’Brien, The Observer

An extraordinary tour de force of fictional presentation . . . a masterpiece . . . a technically remarkable work, as sharp as a blade. . . . Molly Keane is a mistress of wicked comedy.

A witty, black comedy of manners, Good Behaviour is a memorable novel by an Irish writer whose only equal is Elizabeth Bowen.
The Bookseller

Good Behaviour includes very little good behavior, featuring instead delicious and deleterious accounts of illicit sex and wild high jinks, and a mother-daughter duo who can scrap with the best of them.
Vulture, “Best Books of 2021 So Far”