The Good People

In my current attempts to find an agent for Habnab I keep running up against the same request – list books similar to yours.

This sounds easy right? But, without giving too much away about Habnab, I found the answer to this request very elusive. If, as an author, your goal is to produce something familiar yet unique, its hard to find books similar to yours and convince the gatekeepers to let you in.

Hannah Kent’s ‘The Good People’ is one of the books I am using as an example of a book similar to Habnab in that they share the same antagonist – the fae.

The fae of folklore are a people indigenous to Ireland who were forced to flee from invading humans. The fae are famous in folklore for taking a beautiful child and replacing it with one of theirs in disguise. This changeling child could be either an infant fae to be loved and raised in the manner of the cuckoo, or an elderly fae who is sent to the humans as a form of palliative care by deceit.

The Good People’ deserves its praise. The language is lyrical but flows without becoming overpowering. The main characters are painted in a sympathetic light through close attention to detail that spells out their plight, women at the margins of Irish rural societies in the 1800s and thus natural scapegoats of small town suspicion.

The book is a fictional telling of an historical event, where a child died during a ritual aimed at ‘putting the fairy out of him’. A strongly held belief that the fae are real people who live as unseen neighbours and are easily offended, vengeful and strong.

These folk tales of fae and their changeling offspring are common to many ancient European cultures. Irish, Scottish, Icelandic and Germanic all have tales very similar in form and theme to those cleaned up versions told by the brothers Grimm at a similar point in time in which ‘The Good People’ is set.

The dreadful irony for the characters is this … the time in which they lived was effectively the good years … the potato famine was still 25 years off.

‘The Good People’ tells a microcosm tale set neatly within a historical and cultural macrocosm of Catholic versus Protestant, pagan versus Christian, lettered powerful men versus illiterate powerless women.

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