Title: Bog Child
Author: Siobhan Dowd
Genre: YA historical fiction
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Sile Bermingham
First line: They’d stolen a march on the day.
Bog Child is the story of Fergus McCann’s last summer before college. The year is 1981, and Northern Ireland is in the midst of The Troubles. Fergus’s older brother, Joe, is in prison for working with the IRA. He and some of the other men have embarked on a hunger strike to protest the fact that they are treated like common criminals rather than prisoners of war.
Fergus and his Uncle Tally are cutting peat one morning when they find the body of a child in the bog. The bog has unusual chemical characteristics that prevent bodies from rotting while tanning the skin. The young girl’s body is almost perfectly preserved, and the find excites the archaeologists who swoop down on the town, including Felicity She and her daughter, Cora, come to Drumleash to investigate the bog child, or Mel, as Fergus calls her. As the summer goes on, Fergus studies for his A-levels, falls in love with Cora, visits his brother Joe in prison, and becomes more and more emotionally involved with the story of Mel, as it is revealed that she lived in a Celtic village around 80 A.D.
This is a beautifully told coming-of-age story that deals with some very heavy issues: terrorism and the IRA, falling in love for the first time, tyranny and freedom, betrayal, choosing your own way in life. Dowd is a gifted author, and she made me fall in love with Fergus and his family. I am Irish by blood, and stories of The Troubles always hurt my heart. I wept for Fergus’s Mam, and the pain she was going through while Joe was on his hunger strike. I ached for the conflict between his Mam and his Pap and their different ideas of how they should deal with the strike. And I loved the bits of Mel’s story that started each chapter. But most of all, this is Fergus’s story – everything is seen through his eyes, described with his words, and felt with his heart – and he is a character whose story will be with me for a long, long time.
The reader of the audiobook version is excellent, too – I loved hearing all those Irish accents.