When The Bogman was published in 1952, it was banned in Ireland for indecency. These days, we find little to label it indecent, even if it is partially about a forbidden love.
The novel begins with Cahal Kinsella coming home to a very small village with less than a dozen houses, most of them occupied by older people. Cahal is illegitimate. His grandfather threw his mother out when he was born, and he was raised in an industrial school. Now 16, he has been released from the school and goes to live with his grandfather, Barney.
Barney is a hard man. He is sometimes brutal to Cahal, but Cahal doesn’t mind. He is used to obeying and is happy to belong somewhere. However, this attitude earns him the disdain of Máire Brodel, which will have far-reaching consequences.
Cahal also has the problem that no matter how good his intentions, he is often misunderstood. As he gets older, a series of incidents leads to him losing most of his friends. But his worst misfortune comes when, to get money, Barney arranges a marriage for him at nineteen with a woman in her 40’s.
This is a powerful novel about the hardships of Irish rural life at the time, about the insularity and lack of privacy in a small village, about rumor and gossip, treated as truth even if it’s a lie. According to the introduction by Nuala O’Connor, it is based at least partially on Macken’s own life and experiences.