Set on the border of Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, Siobhan Dowd’sBog Child explores the human side of political conflict, particularly the Northern Irish conflict known as the Troubles. As the novel begins, Fergus McCann and his Uncle Tally cross the border into Southern Ireland to pilfer peat from a bog. While digging, Fergus uncovers the body of a child. At first he assumes she was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, known as the Provos, a paramilitary group fighting for Irish unity.
When police come to examine the body, they realize the girl died long before the Troubles began, probably during the Iron Age. The bog preserved her body, and she is now a major archaeological find. Her body is found so close to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland that nobody is sure which side should claim her. Archaeologists on both sides of the border vie for the right to study the body.
Fergus dreams of leaving the Troubles behind, going away to college, and becoming a doctor. Only a few other people in his life, including his mother and his Uncle Tally, seem to stand apart from the Troubles. Almost everyone else in Fergus’s Irish Catholic hometown sides with the Provos and their goal of uniting Ireland at any cost—even that of terrorism. Fergus’s older brother, Joey, is serving a prison sentence because of his involvement with the Provos. Some of the prisoners at Joey’s prison are staging a hunger strike in an effort to force British leaders to give them special status as political prisoners. Several of them have already starved themselves to death, but the British government refuses to give in.
Soon after Fergus finds the bog child, Joey joins the hunger strike. Fergus and his mother visit Joey to try to make him start eating again, but both soon see that Joey will not change his mind. Fergus knows that British leaders will not bend to the Provos’s demands and that the strikers, including Joey, would rather die than give in.... [continues]
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