Feb 11 2010

Bog Child

The last few days I’ve been holed up at home, watching the snow fall and drift. Other than pulling on some jeans and a top layer or two to go shoveling, I’ve stayed inside lounging about in my pajamas, working through a store of microwaveable dinners, talking on the phone about the “snow”, and reading. Last night, I started reading Siobhan Dowd’s 2008 novel “Bog Child“. Today, I finished it.

The book was published posthumously, following the author’s death in 2007. The book is intended for teenagers and is not a difficult read. I’m not even sure who turned me on to this book; something tells me it was an old friend who is both a rapacious reader and school teacher but I can’t be sure–it’s been sitting on my “to read” shelf for far too long.

The story takes place in Ireland during the summer of 1981. It begins when Fergus, the 18 year old main character, discovers an Iron Age bog body outside his hometown. While the discovery and unfolding secrets of the bog child are interesting, Dowd is not content with a single brushstroke. The book also deals with family dynamics, friendships, loyalties, hopes and sacrifices, young romance, and religion, all painted on the tattered canvas of the “Long War” between the IRA and the British Army. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about Bobby Sands until last night and there I was learning about him all over again in a book aimed for teenagers. I think that’s great.

Again, the book isn’t particularly challenging but it is assembled very well. It gives readers (especially teenagers who may not be familiar with the Troubles) important insight into what life may have been like (I wasn’t there) and how¬†asymmetric¬†(or fourth generation) warfare affects everyone, at all levels. This was a good and compelling read.

“We sin, Fergus, more by the sin of omission than of commission.”

4 out of 5