Review 1590: The Burning of Bridget Cleary

In 1895, a rural Irish woman, a milliner, was burnt to death by her husband and relatives. Their explanation was that the ailing woman had been taken away by the fairies and that they had burnt a changeling trying to get it to say it was not Bridget Cleary.

Historian Angela Bourke examines this crime in detail, not only the events as reported by the witnesses and the trial but the meaning of it. She interprets fairy legends and their place in rural Irish society, and she also explains the meaning of comments and actions the night of the crime and the night preceding it in terms of these legends. She looks at the crime from a feminist point of view as well.

I found this book interesting, although at times I felt Bourke got carried away with her interpretations. Most of the time the writing style and her analysis are interesting, but the book is occasionally a little dry.

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4 thoughts on “Review 1590: The Burning of Bridget Cleary

  1. Cathy746books December 16, 2020 / 10:15 am

    I enjoyed this a lot, but you’re right, Bourke can be thorough to the point of overkill! Her biography of Maeve Brennan is wonderful too.

  2. Izabel Brekilien December 17, 2020 / 3:24 am

    This is a ghastly story ! Poor woman ! I understand what you’re saying about interpretations, I had the same feeling with other historical essays/fictions.

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