Friday, March 27, 2009

"Love Fell in Particles, Like Snow": Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Meg Rosoff gave Bog Child a stunning review in The Guardian. All I have to say is, what she said.

Well, maybe I have a bit more to say. Bog Child is one of the best books I have read this year. The sense of place in this book is so strong. Bog Child takes you straight to the heart of the authenic Ireland, not the touristy leprechan/St. Patrick's day/green beer Ireland but an Ireland with depth and history and language and landscape. It's an immersive experience, and Dowd's Ireland is a compelling place to be.

What astonishes me about this book is how Dowd manages to infuse light and humanity into the most heartbreaking of political situations, without minimizing their tragedy. Not to give away the plot, but one of the major themes of this book is human sacrifice and self-sacrifice, both prehistoric and contemporary (well, almost contemporary, to some of us older readers). One of the most beautiful lines in Bog Child, "love fell in particles, like snow", is uttered by a young woman meeting her death.

This book has much in common with Dowd's first novel, A Swift Pure Cry, particularly with its focus on rural Ireland and its richness of language and character. Dowd was a truly literary writer. Sadly, she died of cancer last year and Bog Child was published posthumously. She has left one more unpublished work, which will be the last we hear of her moving and humanistic voice.

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