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Good Behaviour: A BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick – Booker Prize Gems (Virago Modern Classics)

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She wrote until 1946 when her husband died, and didn’t start again until 1981 when this novel was published and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Deep down, she recognised that she was a large, fat girl who didn’t fit into her clothes or society: I know I’m big, but I’m a girl, I suppose, not a joke.

I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes this Molly Keane novel so very good – but it really is very, very good. Perhaps it is this that so disturbs, I like a book in which a character can in some way redeem themself, can change or transform, ‘nasty, black comedies’ and characters that take pleasure in using their wounds as weapons against another isn’t entertaining for me, I am unable to wear a mask and pretend otherwise. Skrine’s ruthless economies, Ballyrankin, the family estate in County Wexford, was always kept cold and uncomfortable, the food downright nasty.

It also supports my view that I have different tastes to the Man Booker Prize committee, as well - I'd never have nominated this. All my life so far I have done everything for the best reasons and the most unselfish motives,” says Aroon soon after. A couple​ of years ago Hilary Mantel was asked to pick an ‘overlooked classic’, and she chose Good Behaviour, praising the book’s concision, its wit and method of ‘sly misdirection’. Aroon is cursed from the start with an ordinary need for love and a body out of sync with the 1920s fetish for slim, boyish figures.

Aroon's charismatic father is recovering from a war injury which causes feelings of discontent and failure, but bridges a gap between his children as he strives to face his vulnerability. That includes a repellent mother, a failed painter who hates children and dogs and lets the family devolve into penury; a father with more passion for outdoorsy things than the task of supporting of the family (and who helps himself at will to the flesh of myriad women, servants included); and a brother, Hubert, handsome and dissolute, who exploits Aroon’s most tender vulnerabilities to hide his homosexuality. But also the state of Aroon, a big girl, her weight often commented upon, her appetite, hungry for love, for acceptance, for being taken on her own terms. we know, even if she doesn’t, that this act of symbolic cannibalism is meant to perfect her revenge.

The next three books show Keane stretching herself in style and experimenting with darker subjects: Full House (1935) introduces the first of many monstrous mothers; The Rising Tide (1937), her best novel barring Good Behaviour, is an acid melodrama about a widow clinging to her Edwardian youth; and Two Days in Aragon (1941) takes on the Irish War of Independence, house-burning and all.

In a sequence of slapstick misunderstandings on Aroon’s part, Papa’s missing limb, lost on a First World War battlefield, stands in for his potent member. Excerpted from the introduction to Good Behaviour , by Molly Keane, published this week by New York Review Books. The problem with Mrs Brock is that she not only has feelings of her own, and expresses them, but cultivates them in others, especially in her charges.

Molly Keane (20 July 1904 – 22 April 1996) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born Mary Nesta Skrine in Ryston Cottage, Newbridge, County Kildare). As the penny dropped, by which I mean my realisation at how deluded was her interpretation of the behaviour of others, I felt so pained for her. A superb comic creation, Mrs Brock is a middle-class widow, given to playing the piano, knitting, and falling in love with her employers. It started to feel like being with them too long every time something happened like Papa and brother infecting their society with jokes about Big Girl Aroon. Sometimes the spotlight falls on the abject residues that good behaviour would prefer discreetly to ignore: diarrhoea, for example, and vomit (several times, including its lingering taste and smell).

Sometimes the trouble hides in plain sight, at the centre of the scene we are invited to contemplate. Anyone who has endured the feeling that they don’t fit in, the realisation that the behaviour and motivations of others are not always kind, will identify with Aroon. It is narrated in retrospect by Aroon, the ‘unloveable’ daughter who has, in effect, been orphaned by her parents’ ‘impervious intimacy’ with each other.

Charles prepares to serve her invalid mother a splendid luncheon—the silver gleams, the linens glow—of rabbit mousse, a dish her mother despises. We adored Papa, and his hopeless disapproval paralysed any scrap of confidence or pleasure we had ever had in ourselves or our ponies. Widely considered her masterpiece (although Athill gave that distinction to her final book, Loving and Giving, aka Queen Lear in the U. It sat in a drawer for years until her friend the actor Peggy Ashcroft read it during a visit and urged Keane to try again. 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 ".

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