Good Behaviour

Devoured Molly Keane’s book in one sitting. She begins the story in the kitchen of a decrepit house, daughter fixing rabbit for her dying mother upstairs, pretending it’s chicken mousse. The mother smells it, vomits, and dies. Maid Rose is immediately at the daughter’s throat saying how much Aroon hated her mother. We float off in a retrospective dream haze at the end of the chapter and catapult back in time to discover why, exactly, Aroon hated her mother. It’s a tale of indifferent neglect, shunted into the hands of nannies alongside her brother, hilarious descriptions of a nanny with drinking problem discovered face down on the nursery floor, and also Mrs. Brock, the nanny who killed herself after a heartbreaking affair with Aroon’s father (and who was also the nanny of Richard, Aroon’s pretend lover, until sent packing). We discover this upper crust English (Irish?) family has no money, simply stuffing bills from creditors into drawers and forgetting about them. Younger brother returns from school with Richard in tow, Aroon falls for him, but it is lightly hinted that Richard & the brother (Hubert) are real lovers. Hubert dies in a car wreck, Richard escapes to Africa and gives Aroon the horse they all had thirds of, Aroon sells the horse to pay the nurse’s bill so she can fire her, putting care of her father into her (and Rose’s) hands. Throughout, the mother constantly undermines & discourages her daughter, sowing the seeds of mutual disgust that will end up on a plate shortly before her death. Incredibly readable, discovered via the Chicago bookstore, Women and Children First.