Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

I recently read Haunted Ground by Erin Hart for my book club.

I had a little difficult getting into this book. The beginning scenes (chapters?) in the Irish bog were too technical for me. I was getting lost in the graphic description and wasn't sure where the novel was leading.

As I read further, the story did begin to captivate me; however, there was a bit of a language/swearing problem with a few of the characters. That alone would prevent me from recommending this book - especially to any of my LDS friends. Certainly, I would not have read this for a church book club. :-)

The story line in the book was rather redeeming. It begins with the discovery of a body in a bog. I found it interesting (as did many of the women at this book club) how well bogs preserve items that are discarded within them. It must be wonderfully fascinating from an archaelogical perspective. It can give an actual glimpse into events that happened centuries in the past. I may need to investigate this further.

From this discovery, several storylines are interwoven together. The red-haired girl from the bog. The archaelogists who are called to investigate. The family of bog farmers who made the discovery. The neighbor, whose wife and child mysteriously disappeared three years prior. The dectective who has been investigating the disappearance. Hart takes us on a journey that eventually connects all of the characters and storylines together. It was quite satisfying to get to the end and have it all come together nicely.

At book club today, we briefly touched on the symbolism of the crows that reappeared in the book. Very briefly. The conversation quickly turned more to a discussion on crows themselves - not their portrayal in the book.

One topic that I really did like that was broached was the theme of survival. This book, ultimately was the story of survival. The red-haired girl survived hundreds of years in the bog. There were many references to traditional music in the novel. This was something that had survived into modern times. All of the characters were surviving - some better than others.

When the discussion leader asked us which was our favorite character, a silence fell over the room. No one spoke up. One person finally mentioned how she wanted Nora to be her favorite character, but there were times that she really didn't like her. I agreed. She could be ill-tempered, and quick to pass judgment. A couple other ladies agreed. We discussed a few of the other characters and their complexity. Hart really did a good job developing complex characters. We also felt that it was easier to point out characters that we didn't like. Mainly Lucy Osborne and Brendan McGann. One suggestion was that perhaps this was because they weren't as complex as some of the other characters. We did discuss Hugh Osborne in some detail. We all really enjoyed his character. He seemed to be such a great guy - even though the entire town has judged him harshly. He was always kind and well composed, but not in an off-putting way.

Overall attending the book club was a good experience, for the most part. For me, I felt there was a lot more discussion of things unrelated to the book. The last 15 minutes or so the discussion moved more to the history of Ireland and the Reformation. I could see where the tangent tied to the book, but I didn't have the knowledge necessary to contribute to the discussion. This happened with a few other topics as well.

There is a reader's guide found on the author's website, but we didn't really go through any of the questions together. I think I may have enjoyed the book discussion better if we had focused on some of those questions. I've found that I'm not that critical of a book reader and take most of what I read at face value rather than delving into some deeper meaning. I think having some questions to frame my reading would be helpful. I'm definitely going to look for book discussion questions for the next book. I think it will help me become a better reader...perhaps?

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