Review: An Irish Country Doctor

Title: An Irish Country Doctor
Author: Patrick Taylor
Format: Paperback

An Irish Country Doctor, published in 2007, is the first in a series of novels by Patrick Taylor. The story takes place in rural 1960s Ireland: Barry Laverty, a recently minted medical doctor, travels to the small village of Ballybucklebo to work as assistant to Dr. Fingal Flaherty O’Reilly, a rather eccentric, cantankerous doctor with years of experience who has a badly-hidden heart of gold. The light, rather fluffy story revolves around Laverty’s getting settled into village life and he and O’Reilly’s meddling in village affairs to bring about a happy ending for several villagers.

The Good: I actually really enjoyed this book. For a fluffy, fairly breezy read, the writing is competent and charming. The village of Ballybucklebo and its inhabitants are well-sketched, and the ending, though a bit neat, leaves one with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Barry’s main purpose in this book is to provide a lens through which we can see the picaresque events of Ballybucklebo in general and a slice of the life of Dr. O’Reilly in particular, as well as to angst occasionally over some medical problem and fall in love with a nice young feminist (and, thereafter, to angst a fair bit over falling in love).

Dr. O’Reilly was probably my favorite part of the book. His character was drawn far more carefully than most of the others, and it’s interesting to see him become a more nuanced being every chapter as Laverty finds out more about his past and learns that O’Reilly, like an onion, has many layers. While O’Reilly is a sweetheart on the inside, his gruffness isn’t all bluster, and some of the most amusing parts of the book come with him dealing with patients who insult him or trespass against one of his ethical codes. O’Reilly cares for his patients, not just as a medical man, but as a sort of priest/judge/shepherd, solving problems with more ease than Abby or Prudence.

O’Reilly is not the only enjoyable character; aside from Laverty himself, who is rather dorkily endearing, such characters as Kinky, the cook/housekeeper, and Jack, Laverty’s old friend, are written quite well and are lots of fun to spend time with.

The Meh: I only had two real complaints with this book: first, the romance between Laverty and Patricia seemed contrived and fairly unbelievable, and, despite the ending, the same problems that caused stumbling blocks for the pair in this novel didn’t really get solved or really worked at.

Second, although the sweet ending fit the novel tonally, it really was too pat, and some of the circumstances which lead to it felt like authorial plot fixing.

The Verdict: Overall, despite a couple of nitpicks, this book was a sweet, relaxing bit of escapism featuring a charming setting and fun characters, and I am looking forward to the next in the series

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