I’ve been working my way through the young adult novels of the late Siobhan Dowd ever since Patrick Ness recommended her work in the foreword to A Monster Calls (but that’s a story for another post). I love each of her books but Bog Child found me right when I needed it. I’m sad I don’t have any more books of hers to read. I have no doubt I’ll make my return.
Published more than a year after Dowd’s death, Bog Child is set during the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland in the 1980s. The protagonist, Fergus McCann, is an 18-year-old studying for his A-levels amid news of bombings in the city and a hunger strike at the nearby prison. The title of the book refers to the unfolding mystery of an ancient corpse he discovers preserved in the bog outside his community, mirroring his troubles with the troubles of long ago.
I’m still uncovering all that Bog Child means to me but I think it comes down to the strange comfort of knowing that every young person is born into troubling times. As I grow up and begin my life, I feel the weary, anxious pressure that Fergus felt. I grapple with the same tension between putting my head down to do what’s expected of me and wondering if there’s something I could possibly do to change the world’s direction. It ends in relief: that time moves on, history moves forward, and I have my whole life ahead of me to see that change. Thank you, Siobhan, for seeing me.