Rua the Red Grouse
This book was published in 1987, just before the growth of the publication of Irish children’s literature in Ireland increased dramatically in the 1990s. It is also an early example of literature from this period interacting with place, environment, and animals, which increased in the 1990s, particularly through the writing of Don Conroy, who illustrated this work. Patrick Devaney is an English teacher, and originally from Co. Roscommon. He has written a number of children’s books, mostly aimed at a teenage audience. Rua the Red Grouse is a novel based on issues of bog conservation, and in particular the conservation of the grouse, whose threatened habitat and dwindling numbers is the main concern of the book. The survival of the grouse, Rua, and the introduction of more grouse, including Sorcha, who becomes Rua’s mate, forms the main plotline. The difficulties and setbacks of this enterprise are documented, largely through the voice of the bank manager who sets out to provide Rua with a mate. Throughout the text, the struggle between development of the bog and its resources and the preservation of the bog, its resources, and its history, is presented, and is largely depicted through the struggle between the ‘ex-cattle dealer’ and the retired bank manager. Through a focus on this opposition, the text presents some complex questions about the future of the bog. However, the narrative is almost completely focalised through animal characters, and through Rua the red grouse in particular. The main human characters are not given names thus further suggesting the secondary importance of the human characters in this story (22).Towards the end of the novel, Rua’s health is shown in its decline, and because of this, he is eventually killed by a fox. Rua’s death coincides with the bank manager’s death from cancer, and this appears to establish a kind of cyclicality that does not represent the death of the endangered wildlife of the bog or those who care for it. At the end of the novel, the farmer’s daughter, who had clashed with her father over his development decisions, marries the vet’s son, whose family had been shown to be sympathetic to conservation of the bog. Though this may represent a new generation of people who will care for the bog, the book ends in a ‘normalised’ domestic scene with distinct gender roles. Further constraining the possibilities for the much-referenced ‘auburn-haired girl’ is the way in which she remains facilitator of male knowledge of the bog, sending away the drawings and writings of the bank manager to be published, while her brother discovers bronze age artefacts in the bog.
Patrick Devaney. Illustrated by Don Conroy
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175p. : ill.
Ireland, Illustrator, Genre, Myth and Legend, Place, Environment, Animals, Nonhuman, Conservation, Bog, Gender, Bronze Age
Juvenile Literature Collection - CICE