The Good People by Hannah Kent – Book Review.

Title: The Good People

Author: Hannah Kent

Rating: 4/5

Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic, Literary, Irish Fiction


As a reviewer with Irish roots, I’ve always been drawn to tales set in the Emerald Isle. After visiting Ireland a few times, and exploring the Ring of Kerry and the mountains around Dingle, there is a clear sense of ancient magic and wilderness that just oozes from this beautiful country.

So when I was skipping through my Kindle feed (yes I read on the Kindle half the time. With my newest handbag being a Chanel Jumbo, I find it much easier to carry a small Kindle around rather than a beefy paperback), I stumbled upon The Good People by Hannah Kent and immediately got sucked into the story.

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Set in a valley in County Kerry, Ireland, The Good People intertwines folklore, religion, and science in this female-led narrative which is heavily based on their belief of ‘The Good People’ – fairies and creatures that live and cause illness/misfortune to people.

When Nóra’s husband Martin dies and leaves her a bereft widow in the rural community of Crohane, misfortune seems to fall across the valley like a toxin. The cows don’t milk, the crops keep failing and a stillborn baby is delivered, all to the horror of the local population. And fingers and rumours are drawn towards Nóra’s house, as she hides a terrible secret. Her grandson, Micheál – a once thriving boy – has been delivered back to Nóra after the death of her daughter. But much has changed with the boy. The child is unable to walk, speak or even properly communicate, which baffles Nóra as she struggles to bond or care for the boy that was apparently her grandson. However, it is soon suggested that the real Micheál was stolen away by ‘The Good People’, who left a fairy-child – a changling – in their midst. So, it is up to Nóra, her hired help Mary, and the local wisewoman Nance Roche, to sort out the changling child once and for all. But with a new priest in town who disapproves of this so-called heresy over the plight of what he considers to be an ill child, time is running out for these three women.

I’ve found with Kent’s writing that she enjoys writing about female-led stories in which turmoil is mixed in with a dose of reality, as this and her other novel Burial Rites, all deal with stories that have a basis in fact. The worries about ‘The Good People’ were held by Irish people at this time, as were the conflicts that the Church had with these almost pagan ideas. For me as a reader, I enjoyed the sense that what I reading wasn’t all fantasy and from the author’s imagination. It gave it a sense of realism.

What I enjoyed about The Good People was the feeling that Kent managed to draw upon. As the village is set in a closeted community in a rural area of Ireland, there is a real sense of isolation and claustrophobia throughout the text. It felt as though the reader was invading upon something that was very private. With the use of Gaelic words too, and a very apt vocabulary, Kent really goes that extra mile to bring the reader deeper into the Irish landscape.

The characters were all well-written too. The women all had deep layers of conflict, personal history, and individuality that made them all very unique to the story. I enjoyed how radically different some characters felt from the others too, as it presented each situation in a unique way as we read it. What Kent also doesn’t do – a strength here – is give a clear answer to the riddle of Micheál. The reader is left wondering whether a priest, a doctor or Nance’s influence would’ve solved the riddle, or what he actually is. This leaves a good ambiguity to the text which makes it memorable after the first read.

This novel was my first introduction to Kent as a writer, and I’ve happily purchased the rest of her books.

A fast-paced, enjoyable dive into the world of rural, pagan Ireland.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – Book Review.

Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Self-Help, Mind, Body and Spirit, Healthy Living


 

I must confess I’m not one for traditional self-help books. I’ve also considered these sorts of books to be mantra-chanting-full-of-pity accounts, and never picked one up to read. However, when Bloomsbury sent me Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to review, I was intrigued by the front cover, and subtitle of ‘Creative Living Beyond Fear’.

As an English Masters student and budding writer, I knew how challenging living creatively could be, and as an author who stayed on the New York Bestsellers List for 3 years, I felt she could be somebody to look up too.

So I picked up this book without any knowledge or expectations of whether it would help, me but I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

Big Magic follows Gilbert’s own creative processes, and from that, she imparts her wisdom/tips and tricks in order to get people think and living creatively. She offers insights into the writing process, inspiration, making new ways of work, embarking on dreams or just adding a little bit of mindfulness and passion into our everyday lives, whilst never feeling too lecture-y or self-pitying. img_3534

The book is split into six sections, which lead naturally into each other, and really are enjoyable reads.  Gilbert’s writing style is fluid, natural and remarkably unpretentious for a NYT Best Selling Author, and she seems to take on the world with wonder and majesty. She is aware that her own successes are amazing, yet she comments mainly on the joy of writing. The author also divulges the reader into her own backstory and upbringing, but doesn’t separate that from her message of living in a magical and creative way.

One thing I love about this book is her theory about ideas as sort of visceral beings that chose owners and you have to work with it. This really spoke to me, and I found myself taking real note from this book.

There has been some critics of this book, and it is true, it wouldn’t have been published if it wasn’t for the soaraway success of Eat, Pray, Love, but I personally don’t care about this.

I found this book to be a interesting read that helped me structure and subtly change my views on creativity. Whether or not I change my writing style or how I write, is a separate matter, but all in all I found this book to be a light, whimsical read that will, above all things, make you want to take up a pen, paintbrush or video camera and get creative.

 

Big Magic is available now through Bloomsbury Publishing House

 

 

Book Fangirling Book Award

So, the lovely Lexi nominated me for a blog award! I’m so excited to have this Book Fangirling Book Award, and I highly suggest you go and check out Lexi @ DriftingLexi, as I always snoop on her blog to get good reading and reviewing tips.

So, the rules:

  1. Create a post to accept your award.book-fangirling-blog-award11
  2. Add the blog award button into your post and put it on the side of your blog as a widget. Visit fangirling for the award button.
  3. Answer the questions I have below.
  4. Nominate between 5-10 book bloggers who you think also deserve this award.
  5. Come up with your own 5 questions for your nominees.

The Questions:

Pick one – Harry Potter or Percy Jackson.

Having never read Percy Jackson, it’s going to have to be Harry Potter. Truthfully, you could probably put up anything, and I would still pick Potter.

Who’s your favourite Lisa Kleypas and Jane Austen hero/ heroine?

I’ve never heard of Lisa Kleypas, but I do love me some Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, or the eponymous character of Lady Susan from Lady Susan.

Who’s your book soul mate?

A difficult one. If we’re going for classic literature, I hold a soft spot for Heathcliff, because I do love the ‘mad, bad, dangerous’ ones. But if we’re going for more modern fiction, then it might have to be Luke from The Shopaholic series.

Who’s your latest book crush?

Ooh, latest book crush… It might have to be Boris from Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. He’s Russian, he’s slightly mental and he’s so interesting.

Book whose ending you disliked the most?

I haven’t hated an ending in a very long time actually, but I did dislike the ending of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, as it didn’t seem to be the most dramatic ending for such a promising series.

Nominees!

My questions:

1: What’s your next book on your TBR pile?

2: Favourite cover art that you own?

3: Which book surprised you the most?

4: Have you read any book series, and if so, what series?

5: Favourite genre of book to buy?

So, there are my answers and my new questions! Thanks for reading.