"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).
The introduction of a tractor to a remote mountainside farm in Ireland opens Edna O'Brien's passionate, exquisitely wrought new novel, Wild Decembers. The book is set in contemporary times, but from the way the characters stare at the machine in slack-jawed amazement, it may as well be nearly a century earlier, which indicates how little life has changed. At the tractor's helm is Mick Bugler, a handsome and charming man who has arrived from the modern world to claim inherited acreage from his recently deceased father. His efforts to take over his part of the mountain meet powerful resistance from his neighbor, the steadfastly antiquated Joseph Brennan, who was taught early on that "fields mean more than fields, more than life and more than death, too." Soon, their strained niceties are dropped altogether, as Bugler and Brennan assume their roles in a family conflict that has raged for generations. But the major wrinkle in this scenario is Brennan's shy and dutiful sister Breege, who finds herself drawn to her brother's rival even as she's fully aware of the possible consequences. Wild Decembers owes a great debt to such classic romantic tragedies as Wuthering Heights, and O'Brien acknowledges as much by lifting its title from Remembrance, Emily Brontė's anguished poem of doomed love, told from "memory's rapturous pain." At times, O'Brien's prose overreaches for showy effect, but she acutely understands and sympathizes with all three central characters, whose actions, however destructive, are rooted in noble intentions. Like many Irish novels, Wild Decembers features a gallery of colorful villagers--two devious sisters who seek out men to seduce and extort, a haughty dame who spends most of her time getting primped in the salon, an old gossip with a knack for stirring up conflict--who contribute to the hostilities. O'Brien admires and fears the harsh majesty of rural Ireland the way Annie Proulx treats her native Montana, and with same dread of inevitability, too. With a trio this volatile, it may be easy to guess where the story is heading, but O'Brien displays insight and eloquence in telling it.