Lan's Reviews > Bog Child

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
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's review
Aug 08, 2011

it was amazing
Recommended for: Everyone
Read in June, 2010

A personal favourite of mine. I found the book in my high school library and was impelled to read it due to the interesting premise. I have a very strong historical calling, and historical fiction is a nice slip between reality and fantasy.

Fergus is a graduating high school student who crosses the border with his Uncle Tally to swipe some peat in the early morning hours and stumbles upon the body of what appears to be a young girl of seven or eight. At his insistence, his uncle goes back to the police to inform them of the body. While the elder is gone, Fergus begins having some strange dreams about the said girl in the bog. That is simply part of the story however.

Fergus lives in Dublin in 1981, a time when the PIRA (Provisionary Irish Republican Army) is setting up riots and their volunteers are arrested and then commanded to go under a hunger strike. Fergus’ brother is one such volunteer who, when he follows the rest of his militiamen, throws his entire family into turmoil. Add this up with his upcoming exams, the mystery of the bog child, his infatuation with Cora, the daughter of an archeologist, befriending a British soldier named Owain, and being blackmailed to run suspicious trips across the border, Fergus is on shaky ground.

The story is by far not fast paced, it is a lazy feeling, slow-going story that takes its readers on this stroll, but skillfully knows how to shift the mood. Ever when the scene is going at a virtual snail’s pace, it can build up such tension that it can become almost unbearable. The humour is lighthearted and innocent for the most part, which give it a different feel. It isn’t childish humour, but nor is it dirty and “mature”. It is a refreshing change to the corrupting literature that is being published today, solely for the purpose of a cheap laugh. The author can manipulate your emotions by the changing atmosphere of the words and it is so skillfully done that you go along right with it.

Now, by all means, the book doesn’t have a vast vocabulary, nor is it something that some adults would call “mature” in its literary style. The author comes off as treading a thin line between too adult to be understood, and too immature to be enjoyed, sadly leaning towards the immature side on more than one occasion. Also, I personally could have gone without Cora. She was a spoiled, hateful, manipulative little brat and I wanted to stab her on every occasion, being the typical stuck-up teenage girl. I hated her even more when she became the permanent love interest for Fergus who could have honestly done better.

My favourite character was Owain. Between the stress and the worry and the mystery of the Bog Child, the scenes with the red-headed border guard were always a refreshing relief. It also showed a nice foil of the Irish mentality of the British reality. He had not aspired to go into the military, but he had no choice. He was just as immature as any other teenager, treating his own authority (for the most part) as a paper dragon. He could even become serious, showing a well rounded character in a total of three scenes.

And finally, the twist at the end was brilliant. I soaked it up like a sponge savouring the bitter taste. It was so refreshing, not leaving with a happily-ever-after, but with a sliver of a silver lining around a dark cloud. It had a very hopeful ending that didn’t leave the reader in utter depression, but didn’t make it unrealistically satisfying, which is something I respect greatly in this piece. I admit I cried on a number of occasions, once from sadness, once from pity, and once from laughter.

Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this book to the point I checked it out again, even after reading. I don’t usually reread books seeing as I can memorize them on the first time around, but this book was too enjoyable to pass up. I even recommend this to all my friends.
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