Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (Random House/David Fickling 2008)

Cindy: From the haunting cover, readers are warned that this will be a novel of sacrifices. Fergus finds a body buried in the peat he is digging in Northern Ireland. It turns out to be from 80 AD, another body preserved in the bog. He begins to dream about the mysterious past of the girl, who apparently was murdered. Woven into this story is the 1980s politics of the Troubles, and the hunger strike by the political prisoners at Long Kesh, including Fergus's older brother. A romance with the archaeologist's daughter and Fergus's involvement in delivering secret packages that may contain bomb-making ingredients complicate his life. This is very different from the author's A London Eye Mystery, which I also loved. Fans of David Almond's books are going to admire this one for its magical realism bits, religious themes, and superb use of dialect. Even if readers have to scramble to research more about the Troubles, they'll have no trouble relating to Fergus's response to his first kisses: “Why wasn’t the whole world doing this all the time, why?”
Cindy has been after me to read this book for weeks and something always bumped it down the stack. Don't let this happen to you! I was prepared from the blurbs for this to be grim and while there are definitely dark and grim elements here, the overall tone is one of optimism and hope - despite all of man's idiocies, life is full of promise and with joy to be found in the most unexpected of places. Dowd weaves multiple plot threads effortlessly and the pace never falters. I was equally enthralled by the various stories, never impatient with any of them, and captivated by the beautifully developed characters. The cast is large from Welsh border guard to grieving mother to Iron Age girl and all spoke with convincing authenticity. The several mysteries are nicely resolved and the astute reader has all the clues needed. This is a beautifully crafted book that satisfies on multiple levels and deserves to win attention and awards. It completely won my heart and I am saddened again at the loss of this gifted writer.


Charley said...

I'd like to read both The London Eye Mystery and Bog Child. I didn't realize the author had passed away, though.