Monday, March 30, 2009

Irish bogs reveal a preserved body

Brendan McGann is cutting turf in a peak boy on a chilly April morning when he discovers the head of a young woman in Lough Derg in County Gallway.
Cormac Maguire works at the National Museum as an archaeologist and Nora Gavin, an American pathologist work together to examine the well preserved head of a young woman and attempt to find answers to how she came to be there.
Other young women have been disappearing from the area including the wife and son of wealthy land owner, Hugh Osborne.
Hugh asks Cormac to help as an archaeological survey at a construction site. Cormac agrees and asks Nora to join him so they can find more about the girl who's head they found. Since they are helping Osborne, he asks them to stay at his home with his cousin and son.
This is a wonderfully descriptive novel with Gothic aspects. It depicts the emotions of the locals, their love of music that gives meaning to many of their lives and tells of the history of the bog which has provided a livelihood to many people for generations.
Cormac and Nora find a ring in the girl's mouth and they are able to date the time when she was decapitated as around 1652. When they ask a teacher what was happening in that time he tells them that this was a time of ethnic cleansing in Ireland similar to Bosnia of recent times. The Catholics were forced to move from the vicinity and make way for the Protestants by Cromwell. Many Catholics starved and the times were merciless.
Hart does a magnificent job in telling this story. The reader becomes involved with the characters and the novel moves along with the smoothness of a well oiled machine.
Highly recommended.

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