The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story

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Penguin Books, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 279 pages
Bridget Cleary fell ill, then disappeared from her cottage in rural Tipperary. Even before she vanished, rumors circulated that she was a changeling, left behind by fairies or evil spirits. The "real" Bridget would return on a white horse. Then her badly burned body was discovered in a shallow grave, and her husband, father, aunt, and four cousins were arrested and charged with her murder. The fate of Bridget Cleary became a cause scandaleuse in turn-of-the-century Britain and Ireland. The murder trial of Cleary's husband and family made a sensation in the new mass media and played directly into the Torys' hands during the debate over Home Rule -- confirming the lingering fears about the savage Irish peasantry. Angela Bourke, an expert in the Irish oral tradition and a gifted storyteller, combines historical detective work, acute social analysis, and meticulous original scholarship. Bridget's "sin" seems to have been that she was pretty, clever, assertive, and flirtatious. Her story illuminates the clash between two worldviews, two ways of dealing with troublesome people, two ways of accounting for the irrational, at a time of profound social, economic, and cultural change. As Bourke probes the stories told about, by, and around the village, and the astonishing media circus generated by the murder trial, she shows the surprising sources of pressure on Michael Cleary that led him to an unspeakable act.

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User Review  - ukforever - LibraryThing

Just in time for Halloween, I finished reading The Burning of Bridget Cleary. The book is a very good narrative and analysis of the mysterious death of 26-year-old Bridget Cleary on March 15, 1895 in ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rfewell - LibraryThing

This was a great narrative, with tons of documentation, of a burning of a woman "posessed by fairies" in the late 19th Century in Ireland. What will stick with me: the notion of ancient ideas in more ... Read full review


Fairies and Fairy Doctors
Reading Sewing Hens and Houses
Bridget Cleary Falls Ill

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About the author (2001)

Angela Bourke is senior lecturer in Irish at University College, Dublin. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota and writes, lectures, and broadcasts on Irish oral tradition and literature.

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