Good Behaviour, Molly Keane

I started this book without knowing what it was about, and very little commitment to read it because of the cover: a painting by Meredith Frampton, Portrait of a young Woman

- The woman in the portrait looks pinched, scornful, stuck.

Anyway, I opened this book anyway, because I was on vacation abroad, cf Ellen versus Warriors

and it was the only book I had taken with me that I had left to read! I must say that the first few pages have put me off - none of the characters are sympathetic, empathetic or kind. They are contemptuous, self-righteous, restricted, uninteresting and I had only one desire: to close the door of their house I had entered to leave them between them, and never to see them again! But when you only have one book left and you love to read..... you keep going!

But I don't like these vile characters, full of themselves, who don't know where they're going and don't seek to know it; characters who can't stand the happiness of others because they’re unable make their own. Characters who hopes that others will be unhappy so that they can get stuck in their own discomfort:
"I had the satisfaction of knowing that she was less happy and therefore that I was more important."

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:
"The reason I like the disaster of others is because they evoke my understanding and sympathy in a way that their successes never do."

The heroine's father is immobilized in bed, she takes care of him. So I think: Ah! Finally a bit of altruism! But she thinks:
"Every day my heart was calmer and more comforted because of the importance I had taken."

The mother of the heroine must save money, well, it is commendable, except when "Her final objective was penance for all of us. She wanted everyone to suffer."

And that poor heroine whom she and her mother think is too tall and too fat. Still in her saving measures, - after having spent money like water all her life and without ever having any idea of the value of money or the price of anything - the mother decides to almost stop heating the house. I would like to point out that the story is set in Ireland, a country I love but whose winters are... let’s say wet and fresh! 😊 Aroon, the narrator, tries to fight back against her mother, but: "The way my mother looked at me, I guessed she was dying to add: fat people don't feel the cold."

Yes, the young Aroon had parents who should never have been parents. Yes, she has a physique that does not meet the beauty criteria of her time. Yes, she was not loved.
But she has what we all have: the choice!

While she finally has the opportunity to make a choice for herself, which should be to take her freedom; in my opinion, she does the wrong thing: she maintains this silly ideal of good behaviour no matter what dignity from which it follows that she does not allow herself to be happy:
“We kept our heads above the morass, stifled screaming despairs only by the exercise of good behaviour.”

For me, this choice is a renunciation of life out of weakness. And I have a lot of difficulty accepting such behaviour, I'll tell you why:
A person who refuses to face reality and face life does not just make himself unhappy. It also puts people around it in suffering. Either we, out of love, feel obliged to help her manage her life, or the way she manages her life has a negative impact on those around her.
So, no, definitely, no, I didn't like Molly Keane's characters, including the young Aroon. I only enjoy reading stories, real or fictional, about characters who raise themselves and raise me with them.

So why did I finally and despite everything like this book? The fault lies with the great writer Molly Keane: her writing is a marvel of distilled subtleties, of seemingly harmless reflections that say so much.

And when I tell you that it's very easy to read, you'll have no excuse not to read this book!©

Gabrielle Dubois

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