I loved this book. Loved loved loved it. Part of the reason I’m so very pleased by how much I loved it is because I did not expect to. I’ve been in the mood lately for fast-paced, action-filled books, and all reviews of Bog Child indicated that it would not fit the bill. But I was about to go on a road trip, and I needed something to help pass the time. My library has a rather small collection of YA audiobooks, so I didn’t have a whole lot of options. I’m so very glad I picked this one up.
Bog Child is essentially a coming of age story (I know many teens cringe at that phrase, but I still love those type of books). Fergus McCann is 18 and living on the south border of Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” in 1981. His older brother, Joe, is in prison due to his involvement with the Provisional IRA, and Joe and his fellow inmates have begun a hunger strike. While out cutting peat, Fergus and his uncle stumble upon the body of a child, preserved by the bog for almost 2000 years. The archaeologist who comes from Dublin to study the body also brings along her daughter, Cora, who provides romantic interest for Fergus. There are a number of threads in this novel weaved together with incredible skill by Dowd, the most remarkable of which is the dual stories of Fergus in 1981 and the bog child, “Mel,” in AD 80.
After reading so many technically flawed books recently, it was so wonderful to read this one. Bog Child is that rare thing: a perfectly-written book. Siobhan Dowd does not write like a rookie. Her writing is polished, beautiful, and communicates the story without a hitch. She demonstrates why writing is called both an art and a craft. The narrator was also spot-on, pronouncing each word slowly and deliberately in her wonderful Irish accent (which added greatly to my enjoyment of the story).
The book IS slow, but it needs to be. It chronicles Fergus’ maturation, and that’s not something that can be rushed. By the end of the story, Fergus has grown in believable ways. And there’s plenty of action near the end of the book to make the first parts worthwhile. Bog Child would be best for older teens who like more contemplative books, and it’s also a book I’d readily hand to an early twenty-something. Even if you don’t think you’d enjoy the book, I encourage you to give it a shot (on audio, if you can).