Book Club review: An Irish Country Doctor

An Irish Country Doctor
January 2016

blog by Cindy Bushey

Zion’s readers welcomed the new year with a light-hearted read chock full of period details and Gaelic accents. Patrick Taylor’s An Irish Country Doctor is the first of his series that follows crusty, brash Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly as he mentors newly graduated Dr. Barry Laverty through the entertaining, aggravating citizenry of a rural Irish village. Ballybucklebo is a fictitious town in Northern Ireland peopled with easily recognizable characters afflicted with medical issues both real and imagined. Dr. O’Reilly operates from the belief that a firm hand is always needed on the tiller, and watching him convince Dr. Laverty of this can be very entertaining.

In addition to navigating the swirling channels of town politics, Dr. Laverty is negotiating the tricky waters of a long distance romantic relationship. Neither course was smooth as the young doctor dealt with hard-headed patients and a girlfriend determined to make it in a traditional man’s profession. His plight aroused some motherly instincts in some of our readers as they commented on Patricia’s on again-off again treatment of the pursuing doctor with comments such as “I just wanted to slap her” and “if she wasn’t interested, why didn’t she just let him be”.

Another character to provoke strong feelings was the scoundrel Bishop. Every community has one of these – someone intent on accumulating money by hook or by crook (sometimes very crookedly!) whose total disregard for other people is disgusting. As one reader put it, she wanted “to hang Bishop up and then wake his wife up” probably with the hope of her booting him to the curb.

Although some of the characters and situations felt a bit contrived, it was still an enjoyable read. Some of the medical practices struck current day readers as ingenious or barbaric (giving vitamin B “tonic” injections through the clothing) or worthy of malpractice accusations (using knowledge of an unwed pregnancy to maneuver the aforesaid Bishop into righting a very old wrong). As the author is a medical doctor, the methods are well-researched and authentic. But Ballybucklebo exists in pre-HIPPA times, thank goodness, and the plot and the ends justify the means.

For readers with an ear for languages, the lyrical Irish tones of housekeeper Kinky Kincaid lent a musical tone to the dialogue. For others, her language was a hindrance even though the author thoughtfully provided a glossary of terms. As a reader commented, “I knew the words in the glossary; it was the other ones that I needed!” Kinky keeps the household and office wheels running smoothly and helps young Dr. Laverty avoid most social missteps. She also has some interesting recipes which she shares with the readers.

Dr. Taylor utilizes humorous chapter titles and a budding rivalry between the two doctors to identify various literary quotations in his character development. The rivalry establishes a common interest and fosters the growth of the mutual respect which gradually unites the two main characters. Some characters enter and leave the story at odd times without tremendously affecting the plot. A Guinness-swilling dog that lives to amorously attack unsuspecting bystanders’ legs and two youngsters contemplating marriage at the tender age of five are some of these. However, their quirkiness adds to the quaintness of Ballybucklebo and has helped keep all the books in the series on the top of the best seller lists. Most of our readers were not so impressed and using our amended voting method have given this novel six neutral votes, three half a knuckle positive votes, and three one thumb up votes.