cover image Wild Decembers

Wild Decembers

Edna O'Brien. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $30 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-618-06660-5

The poetic telling of this entertaining yet tragic tale, set in the countryside of Western Ireland, is rendered with such lush detail that you can practically smell the peat hearth. O'Brien's novel chronicles the lives of Joseph Brennan and his beloved sister Breege, lives that are profoundly changed by the arrival of a new neighbor, an Aussie named Mick Bugler. He has moved to Ireland to claim his inheritanceDland that Joseph considers part of ""my mountain."" The novelty of the newcomer soon wears off and gives way to feelings of confusion and love on Breege's endDand of paranoid suspicion on the part of JosephDas echoes of an ancient blood feud resonate into madness. Bertish's voice perfectly complements the text; she tells the tale as if it were her own. And indeed, when the narration switches from first person to third, her voice becomes interchangeable with Breege's. Able to glean subtleties of accent and nuance of cadence, Bertish's talent renders all of the characters utterly convincing. Based on the Houghton Mifflin hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 31). (Apr.)