Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child, and it looks like she’s been murdered. As Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him—his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into acting as courier to God knows what—a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls.
Bog Child is an astonishing novel exploring the sacrifices made in the name of peace, and the unflinching strength of the human spirit.
A charming YA novel. It combined two things that I love to read about—Ireland and those archaeological wonders, the bog bodies. Fergus, the main character, is out early one morning surreptitiously digging peat with his Uncle Tally when they discover the peat-stained body of a young girl. When it is determined that she is an Iron Age body, not a modern murder victim, Fergus is encouraged by the archaeologist in charge of the dig to stay interested & involved. As she has a charming daughter, Fergus is only too happy to assist them.
There are some interesting juxtapositions—Fergus’ brother is on hunger strike in prison and Cora, the archaeologist’s daughter, is struggling with an eating disorder. [As an aside, I remember listening to the news regularly in 1981 to hear about the fates of those Irish hunger strikers, especially Bobby Sands.] Fergus is a runner and is pressured into moving envelopes during his runs which presumably have something to do with IRA explosions, but he has also befriended a young Welshman stationed at the village to guard against such things. Both are seeking escape, Fergus from rural Ireland and the young solider from the coal mines of Wales. During all these pushes and pulls, between family and community, law and anarchy, Fergus must pass his final exams with at least three B marks in order to enter University at the end of the summer, to achieve his way out.
We also get some flashbacks to the life of the Bog Child, with some choices of her own to make. I went to a museum display of Bog Bodies that visited my city years ago—there was a large photo of Tollund Man who was found in Denmark and my sister & I both thought that he looked very much like our Danish grandfather, also from Jutland. What a link to the past!