Good Behaviour: A BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick – Booker Prize Gems (Virago Modern Classics)
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I've put 'good' in inverted commas, because it's behaviour but the 'good' part is certainly in question as we follow their shenanigans playing musical beds, drama with the governess and the neighbours etcetera etcetera all under the 'innocent' eyes of Aroon, born and well bred with the 'stiff upper lip' culture. Uneducated in what she is seeing she puts everything as she's told under 'good' manners, you can do anything if you say please and thankyou and not moan about. Even kill your mother. Birdie deserves her escape with Walter, a visiting manservant, and just as she is lost to Angel, so are both Angel’s children. Unpredictably, Oliver departs with Julian’s fiancée, Sally. The novel’s dramatic conclusion, when each couple sails away, maroons and unmothers Angel. Julian’s leave-taking stopped me short: ‘You were quite perfect till I was twelve’. She has the wit to counter: ‘I liked you best at two.’ for a woman to read a book, let alone write one was viewed with alarm: I would have been banned from every respectable house in Co. Carlow."
Bobbie died, two years later, of a blood clot, after an operation on a duodenal ulcer. They had been married just eight years. I think this is what you would describe as a book for grown-ups - and yes there is plenty of sex. But what is interesting here is Keane's in-depth knowledge of her main character, Aroon St. Charles. I read Good Behaviour with the help of my friend, Canadian Reader and I think she would agree, that neither of us liked or felt an iota of sympathy for Aroon until we had finished the book and stepped away from its horrors.Like Good Behaviour, the novel proceeds in a series of intense domestic scenes and results in a series of pairings which leave Angel alone, ‘as sad as a French cemetery’. Her housekeeper, Birdie, is brilliantly described:
Then, as the reading progresses, as it is well done and well written, I end up letting myself go, although the characters remain bogged down in their inactive miserableness:Simultaneously light and dark, pleasurable and harrowing, Good Behaviour may appeal chiefly to readers drawn to characters who are a mixture of well-meaning and hilariously vile, victimizer and victim. . . . Aroon St. Charles is Molly Keane’s great creation, Good Behaviour her masterpiece.” It wasn't a light novel. All that sadness and loneliness. Reading it hurt me and (because of it) I had been thinking (in the beginning) even of abandoning it, of not finishing it. One of the servants, I don't believe it was the Nanny, provides Aroon with her only sex ed instruction, a graphic mention ending with "... and you won't like it!" At the risk of a spoiler, poor clueless Aroon spends her life devoted to her "lover" blind to the pathos of her ignorance to the end.