This is up to date the most depressing book I've ever read. I knew Hannah Kent was going to be bleak, but a new word needs to be invented for darkness that is this book. I am drained, absolutely drained. And unfortunately not in a good way.
I found Hannah Kent when her debut The Burial Rites caught my eye - and I absolutely loved that book. Burial Rites was bleak, but beautiful. Entrancing, engulfing and all consuming. The Good People was repulsive and heavy in the blackest of ways. Both are brilliant for sure, but I cannot say that I enjoyed this one - I see what Kent did here and I applaud her, but I will never be re-reading this.
“The world isn’t ours,’ he said once. ‘It belongs to itself, and that is why it is beautiful.”
For starters, this book wasn't what I thought it was going to be at all. From the title (and knowing the style of the author) I thought it was going to be a story about people, maybe a small village, coming together and doing something good against all odds. A story that would redeem humanity somehow. This is like the opposite of that. If you don't already think that we, as species, are absolutely selfish and horrible, wait till you read this. I honestly did not have enough hate in me to spread it around everybody I hated in this book. Which is EVERYBODY, except literally one person. The title really feels like an inside joke after you're done with the book. Or the book is done with you, more accurately.
Irish folklore is also not something I've ever been interested in, so that also put a damp on my reading experience because I didn't care about the surroundings as much as I wanted to. Also, I never knew just how dark the folklore is, but then this wasn't just some stories by the fire that children are told, this was pagan rituals and curses and everything in between.
But even the vilest of rituals pale in comparison to just how horrible people can be. People who find reason in superstitions as long as they explain things the way that suits them. The blind superstitions was the driving force of this book - how people always need somebody or something to blame their misfortunes on. How one can justify their vile feelings with some folklore tale, how suspicion turns people against each other and how the good ones are never rewarded, because nothing in life is ever fair.
The simplemindedness and ignorance in this book is blinding - this is somehow darker than the dark ages. The things one can do if one believes in something, especially when that belief is not only wrong, but evil, is horrifying. The book does a spectacular job exploring human psyche, even if it goes into places that I never wanted to see.
The writing was superior, there is no doubt in that. Hannah Kent transports the reader completely - and this wasn't a good place to be transported to. I found myself shaking with cold, or most likely anger, many times whilst reading. But the pace and the driving of the plot has left more to be desired. A lot of things were repetitive and everything just snail paced, and the ending didn't bring the conclusiveness that I desired.
Freelance BETA reader.