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December Bride Paperback – February, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstaff Pr (February 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0856400610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0856400612
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,627,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on January 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
'December Bride' begins grimly with a wedding between two middle-aged farmfolk in an empty church. Outside, a curious band of onlookers lurk in the cemetary. In this opening sequence, the novel's Big Themes are set up - The Land, Family, Death, Religion, Community. Bell than switches back a quarter of a century to chart how this scanario came to be. Andrew Echlin, benevolent patriarch of a large lake-side farmstead in turn-of-the-20th-century Northern Ireland, widower father of two sons (silent Hamilton and impetuous Frank), hires labouring tenant Martha Gomartin and her 30-year-old daughter Sarah as domestic servants. After Andrew's death in a boating accident, both men enjoy Sarah's favours, producing a baby of uncertain parentage. Despite the ineffectual efforts of a disapproving clergy, and the scandalised hostility of the community, Sarah refuses to marry either brother, and effectively takes over the running of the household. This menage-a-trois is seen as a direct affront to Puritan Protestant Ulster values; as minister Sorleyson muses: 'One had obligations to one's fellow-men. Of what avail was virtue if lust and irresponsibility were to be crowned with contentment?'
Bell uses as an epigraph a verse by Thomas Hardy, and it is to the latter's novels that 'Bride' bears most resemblance, with its focus on austere agricultural life, on the influence of the weather and the land on characters, on the confict between the eternal cycle of the seasons and the brutal transience of individual lives. Dialect (in this case Ulster-Scots) is richly employed, both in dialogue and in the detailed descriptons of farming life; the transgressive behaviour of individuals and families are contrasted with the norms of the wider community.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
December Bride offers a glimpse into the psyche of Ulster people in the past and today. Sam Hanna Bell perfectly catches the nuances of Ulster Scots dialect and people in this novel. We begin and end the novel in the meeting house, and indeed the harsh austerity of Presbyterianism is a key theme in the book. When Sarah Gomartin enters the house of the Echlin brothers as a servant and advances to be the mistress of both the house and the two brothers - bearing them two "by-blows", or illegitimate children, we see events unfold that unsettle the the close knit purtianical commumity. Strangford Lough and the surrounding pladdies and drumlins are also characters in the book in their own right, with the land showing a brutal indifference to human frality and emotion. The stubborn, stoic nature of the Ulster Scots is displayed in its many varities, from the desire to go their own way, to the Lambeg drums and finally to the close knit loving family. Although this book is set in the nineteenth century, its themes reach across the years and still have relevance now. I urge anyone with an interest in Ireland and particulary the north of Ireland to read this book.
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