Wild Decembers

O'Brien, Edna

Published by Mariner Books, 2001
ISBN 10: 0618126910 / ISBN 13: 9780618126910
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Synopsis: "With a mood akin to WUTHERING HEIGHTS--and indeed the spirit of Emily Bronte" (Irish Times), Edna O'Brien's critically acclaimed novel WILD DECEMBERS charts the quick but sure demise of relations between "the warring sons of warring sons." Here in the countryside of western Ireland, "ancient feuds, romantic passions, and misguided ideas of fidelity blend together in . . . [a] heartbreaking story" (Wall Street Journal) leavened by the human comedy of which O'Brien rarely loses sight. A sister, a brother, and a stranger converge in a classic triangle, proceeding inevitably "toward a climax that is Irish to the quick, violent and sad and, in a strange way, beautiful. Just like the novel itself" (Washington Post).
WILD DECEMBERS is a triumphant work from a writer who wears well the mantle of her Irish forebears and yet who, with each new novel, breaks new ground all her own. In this, her latest, "readers could not ask for a more profoundly satisfying book" (Boston Herald).

Review: Wild Decembers begins lushly with a prologue that's as much a prose poem as a map, full of cautionary demarcations. "Cloontha it is called--a locality within the bending of an arm," Edna O'Brien writes of her setting in western Ireland. With its "relics of battles of the long ago" and memories of the potato famine still in the soil, it's clear that "the enemy can come at any hour." This time, the enemy appears in the form of Mick Bugler--described variously as a "dark horse," a "caveman," and "the Shepherd"--who has returned from Australia to claim his late uncle's farm. To Joseph Brennan, as native to tiny Cloontha as its relics, the stranger who has taken possession of the farm next to his is briefly a novelty, less briefly a friend, and finally excites in him a fear and a love of boundaries that proves murderous.

O'Brien's Irish hero recites biblical, Greek, and Irish history, mingling them until the world's story, as he sees it, is a tribute to immovable men such as Moses, who he swears settled Cloontha for the likes of him. Unmarried and devoted to the sister with whom he lives, Joseph is so blind with love for the life and land he and his forebears have earned--and with the will to preserve them against the barest change--that his own inability to give way is his undoing. Inevitably, his sister Breege and Bugler fall in love, but, in a landscape where everything is a contest of ownership and men measure their stature against a woman's fidelity, this love thrives exuberantly, though not lastingly, like "flowers that are hatched in the snows." In her 11th novel, O'Brien gives as good as Shakespeare: there's a little of Iago in the town fool, a deliciously nasty cripple named Crock, and a little of Ophelia in pretty Breege. The author means to break your heart, and her startling and redemptive prose leaves you as nostalgic as Joseph Brennan for what might have been, as eager for the next chapter as you are disquieted by its implications. --Amy Grace Loyd

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Title: Wild Decembers
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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