11 March 2009

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

A story of this nature might not speak to every reader. But those who can appreciate the layered complexities of Fergus's simple life will not be disappointed by the late Siobhan Dowd's storytelling.

Fergus is living in Ireland during the early 1980s, a time of great tension between Northern Ireland and the Republic, when danger blankets politics, religion, and everyday life, even for a boy who is simply focused on passing his A-levels and his driver's test. One usual morning, Fergus and his uncle uncover a body buried in the bog, and now Fergus and local archeologists become very interested in learning more about this body that he has named Mel. Bogs are areas of wet, marshy land, abundant in Ireland, and it is significant to know that bogs can preserve organic material in remarkable condition. As Fergus dreams about Mel and what her life may have been like, the archeologists discover the Mel was alive in 80 A.D.; how and why Mel died with a noose around her neck reveals much of Ireland’s history as well as human nature. While Fergus is the “student” of the family, hoping to leave the tumultuous Ireland for medical school, his brother Joe is the “soldier,” intent on fighting the good fight for a war-torn Ireland. As Joe takes part in the hunger strikes from his place in prison, their family is torn between respecting Joe’s right to his beliefs and their own desires to keep him alive.

The past and present come together with great force in this fictional account of the struggle of Ireland’s history. Simultaneous issues of political and religious freedoms, self-independence, and faith in the world clash during a time in history – and a time in a young boy’s life – when nothing is as it seems, and surprises and relief seem just around the corner, and yet a world away.

Recommended to middle grade and high school readers, especially those with an interest in good historical myseries.
Call number: YA DOWD (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

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