Sunday, March 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

I just finished a charming book: An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor.

We recently had a mini-vacation and I spent some time browsing in bookstores. I saw a bright, eye-catching cover: An Irish Country Doctor at Peace and At War and the blurb sounded interesting. I almost bought it, but then I realized it was book nine in a series. Well, I couldn’t do that. So, I put it back on the shelf and resolved to look up the previous books. Usually when something like that happens, I promptly forget the author. Fortunately, this title was distinctive enough to stick with me, and something about the blurb appealed to me enough, that I actually did check my library when I got home.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading for challenges and for Netgalley, so I wanted to read something just because. Although now I’m debating counting it toward the historical fiction challenge.

The novel is set in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Dr. Barry Laverty is a freshly trained physician contemplating what to do with the rest of his life. He’s quite sure he doesn’t want to be a surgeon, like his good friend, Jack Mills, who stayed on in Belfast for specialized training. Instead, he applied to be an assistant to a rural general practitioner, Dr. Fingal O’Reilly, in Ballybucklebo, to see if general practice suits him.

Dr. O’Reilly takes him on and shows him the ropes of small town doctoring. Dr. Barry Laverty is well-trained as far as medical school and residency go, but nothing beats experience–as he is about to find out. O’Reilly is full of folksy advice, gruff one moment and sensitive the next. He knows his patients well and he reads Laverty like a book because he was once just like him. There is a housekeeper/gatekeeper/cook with a heart of gold. There is also an assortment of pets full of personality. (Laverty’s position comes with salary, room, and board so he gets to experience it all.) The town is stocked with people of all stripes, sick and malingering, well-to-do and poor, kindly and nasty, sensible and eccentric. O’Reilly deals with them all in turn, occupying a central part of the community and helping to insert Laverty into the same central space, managing to make room for them both.

There is also a budding love interest for the young doctor.

There is something predictable and a bit corny about the book. . .and yet, it’s a sweet and satisfying read and one that made a few hours speed pleasurably by. Taylor describes the rural Northern Ireland setting with obvious love and made me yearn for a place I’ve never been. Although nine books cut of the same cloth might get to be a bit much, I was sort of disappointed to turn the last page because I could have gone on reading. So I’ll likely move on to the second. And then. . .well, I tend to stick to series once I start them. And these are likeable characters.

The 1960s were 50 years ago. And Dr. O’Reilly’s surgery/office was in his house and he spent his afternoon making house calls. So, yes. I’m counting this toward the historical fiction challenge.