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August 15, 2016

An Irish Country Doctor

An Irish Country DoctorAn Irish Country Doctor

By: Patrick Taylor

I find myself drawn to medical programs on television; there is something so compelling about the life-and-death nature of medicine that captures and holds one’s attention. Similarly, in books, this topic is a favorite. I came upon this title a few years ago, while preparing for an overseas trip that included stops in Ireland – the home of my forefathers. I had hoped to absorb the flavor of life in the rugged Irish hills before landing upon her shores. Once I listened on audio to this, the first in Taylor’s Irish Country series, I was hooked. Who could resist shadowing a busy country doc around the lush Irish countryside while hearing his fictionalized recollections in an Irish brogue?

The author, Patrick Taylor, lived the life of an Irish country General Practitioner in his early professional career, keeping journals of his experiences. These writings formed the basis of his first novel, originally released in Canada in 2004 as The Apprenticeship of Doctor Laverty; Taylor had immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1970. Three years later, the novel was released in the U.S. under the title An Irish Country Doctor.

The narrative follows fledgling doctor, Barry Laverty, who is seeking his first medical position in the fictional village of Ballybuckelbo after having completed his medical training. Laverty is green but smart and eager to work hard and learn from the older and wiser Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly. O’Reilly can be brusque and bristly and enjoys his nip of Jamison whiskey, but he’s clever, and a top-notch physician with a heart of gold. Despite Laverty’s initial disdain of his boss’s unorthodox methods, the two men develop a close relationship during their first weeks together. They share living space over the first floor medical office and are fed and mothered by housekeeper, Kinky Kincaid, who has a touch of the second sight.

Drama is surprisingly rampant in and around Ballybuckelbo. Among its citizens, we find: a greedy and unscrupulous councilman with a roving eye; a stubborn elder who lives in his car rather than betray his convictions; a young couple who find themselves in a family way out-of-wedlock; and a hypochondriac retired major who cries wolf one time too many. In small towns, personal struggles filter through the consciousness of neighbors and often resolve for the better thanks to the well-meaning intervention of others. Dr. O’Reilly relishes his ability to direct his flock with a nudge or a push in the right direction, and most of them love him for it. Laverty, learns that his role as a G.P. might involve more than examinations, diagnoses and treatment; he will be in a position to impact the well-being of those in his care in a broader sense – if he cares enough and dares to act. He also stumbles upon a driven young woman who steals his heart and then threatens to break it.

Taylor writes with wit and an eye to detail, describing the village folk, their beloved pets and the fictional country setting, near Belfast in County Antrim, with evocative charm. He goes to great lengths to capture the Ulster-Scots dialect of the region. To avoid confusing the reader, he thoughtfully provides a glossary of unfamiliar phrases in the back of the book. Taylor is also fond of tossing in a plethora of literary references, which O’Reilly and Laverty volley back and forth with competitive glee.

If you accept my recommendation to give this book a try – and enjoy it – you’ll be pleased to know that Taylor has completed a total of ten novels in his Irish Country series, all featuring at least one of the two doctors, their dauntless housekeeper, and the endearing country folk they serve. I hope you welcome them into your heart and find as much pleasure as I, slipping away to charming Ballybuckelbo; happy reading!

Review By:  Pam Lamberger