Sunday, October 25, 2015
Wild Decembers by Edna O'Brien
A neighbor from abroad comes between a farmer and his beloved sister
Joseph Brennan, long time farmer in the beautiful Irish mountain town of Cloontha, works the land with his younger sister Breege. The siblings are a bit odd. Joseph is a master of trivia, and Breege possesses a nearly neurotic shyness. Then manly man Mick Bugler moves into his uncle’s old farm further up the hill, full of new ideas and rich enough to buy a tractor. He and Breege form an attachment, though he neglects to tell her about his rich fiancée back in Australia. When the families resume their generations long struggle over grazing rights, tragedy ensues.
The skeleton of the story is tragedy, but its skin is comedy. Wild Decembers was different from the other Edna O’Brien novels I’ve read. Like the others, this one had a present tense lush descriptive prose style, although sometimes here perhaps that lushness felt a bit sloppy. This book had a straight ahead plot, with violence and blood deployed effectively. The reader knows what the end will be from the get go. There’s a field, a love triangle. It’s mythic. Letters from lawyers move the plot along. The minor characters are wonderful, comically drawn, with the unexpected bonus of the two lewd sisters. The ending petered out a little, but this novel was a unique and beautiful glimpse into the Irish soul.