Books: Perils of the Rustic Life

Wild Decembers portrays a simmering Irish feud

People hankering for a peaceful, rustic existence should probably curl up with Edna O'Brien's splendid new novel Wild Decembers (Houghton Mifflin; 272 pages; $24) before moving to the sticks. Things are not as pleasant in the tiny western Irish village of Cloontha as the scenery suggests. Michael Bugler has arrived fresh from a sheep farm in Australia to claim the land left to him by a deceased uncle, and the newcomer's presence stirs up the villagers. Especially agitated is Joseph Brennan, whose ancestral farm borders Bugler's property. Brennan tries to be neighborly, but his true spirit bubbles up after a few...

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