Monday, March 30, 2009

Two by Siobhan Dowd

Bog Child (Random House - David Fickling Books) is a tapestry of a coming-of-age tale. Set in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, it follows Fergus, a young man just finishing his schooling and hoping his grades will position him for university, after which he'd like to be a doctor. When he and his uncle go out to steal peat to sell, Fergus discovers the body of a child in the bog, and dreams of this relic's life begin to haunt him. His days are haunted with matters both trivial and important--will he make it through his exams? Should he cooperate with the Irish Republican Army? Can he be friends with a solider who might shoot his friends and family to keep order? Will Cora, the daughter of the archaeologist investigating the bog child, ever notice him? Will his older brother die from his hunger strike, and will Fergus's family survive the loss intact?

Readers without much knowledge of the conflict that is the backdrop for Bog Child might find the first third of the book is easier if they take a few minutes to review the history, and still others might struggle with unfamiliar terms and idioms; U.S. readers have few opportunities to hear such a voice among what's being published commercially. Still, the book is a satisfying read as the plot threads come together to form a wistful picture of growing up in modern-era wartime.

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