Friday, September 16, 2011

Delving further into Bending the Boyne with Author JS Dunn + Giveaway

After reading and loving Bending the Boyne, I wanted to know more about the mythical novel. Author JS Dunn delves further with some of the customs and culture that surround Eire and the Boyne. 

Thank you Allison, for inviting me to post on the ideas behind Bending The Boyne ! Reading a novel set in such a remote era can be a challenge.

The Boyne mounds in Ireland are older than the Pyramids, and Stonehenge. How did these great mounds fall into disuse? Additional background follows to enhance reading of Bending The Boyne. There are no plot spoilers in the following, though some of the info will seem strange or not suited to the squeamish!

Figures from what we call myth, Boann and Aengus and others, depict the drastic changes in Eire at 2200 BCE. This spin on Irish/Welsh myths, oldest in western Europe, preserves the ambiguity for who fathered Aengus, as found in the original lines:
 “...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale...”
That has to be the original version of our modern “Who’s Your Daddy?” celebrity gossip.

The very notion of being a celebrity or warrior-hero probably arose at this time, the third millennium BCE, as shown by a big change in burials from cremation and mass deposits of bone and ashes to individual burials in cists, usually males, buried with prestige objects like copper daggers and gold jewelry.

And what did Elcmar do with that white horse? Certain grisly aspects of the hero-making of Elcmar, the Invaders’ champion, have been glossed over by all but a few academics (and some passages of Finnegans Wake) but yes, that ceremony is thought to have involved carnal union with a white horse. The union was to ensure the land’s fertility. In later times, the horse was dismembered and put into a great cauldron that the “king” climbed into to soak in the poor dead beast’s blood. In still later times, a bad leader was ritually tortured and killed. It is also the case that in what we now call Spain, and possibly in the eastern part of the UK, some tribes practiced ritual cannibalism. This author chose to draw stark contrast between Starwatchers and Invaders rather than overemphasize the strangest cultural practices of the Bronze Age.   

For astronomy buffs, this tale of ancient Ireland offers intrigue. Did these people really know about equinoctial precession?  How did these ancients perceive the workings of the solar system? The characters themselves can be thought of as elements of the solar system, the sun and orbs (: Boann is the Milky Way, Aengus the reborn sun at solstice).

The reader looking for references to Irish literature and politics can find dozens. Many loaded words and phrases are embedded in the story; beyond the Pale, the Liberties (of Dublin), the Ascendancy, and Transportation, to name a few. The reader brings a certain perspective to how he or she interprets the past, as does the author. The references to later Irish culture remind of that; also, that our own culture will in time be subject to interpretation whether through myth or science. Our own history will later be reinterpreted, rewritten.

Which millennium is this story?  The time frame is flexible if the work is read as political metaphor. “Each side accused the other of interfering with the peace process...” (page 307) could be extracted from any current news story of the shaky progress toward peace and Ireland’s reunification.

As the centennial of Ireland’s Rising approaches in 2016, this novel offers a new perspective on the unending Troubles for one notable island -- of which the English were only the latest incarnation.

The reader may find the maps in the front matter, and the Glossary of names and author’s note at the back matter, to be useful. The author’s website,, contains reading group questions, and web links to find photos and interesting information about the objects and places depicted in Bending The Boyne.

More on the new concepts about “Celts” and the early origin of the Gaelic language can be found in Celtic From The West (Cunliffe and Koch, editors, 2010, Oxford Press).

Thanks JS for explaining! We may always be wondering about some of the Boyne's mysteries! 
The Publisher, Serious Good Books, has offered up a copy for one lucky reader!! The giveaway is limited to the US and UK/Europe. Please leave me a comment with contact info. I will throw in a bonus entry for following me! Enter by October 1st!
And if you can't wait to get your copy, you can pick it up here! $2.99 for the Kindle edition!!!!!!!!


  1. I love Historical Fiction and have been hung up on the Henry VIII's wives lately. I need to change countries and time periods. I would love to read about Irish myths.

    clenna at aol dot com

  2. I'm Irish and we named our daughter Cenneidigh I would love to read this thanks lisapeters at yahoo dot com I follow Lisa GFC