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Monday, November 11, 2013

If You Are Irish You'll Love This Book--You'll Love It Even If You're Not!

Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country NovelFingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country Novel by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being on vacation it has taken longer to read this book than would be the case had I not been gallivanting and just fitting it in during quiet moments. What an interesting approach to a story and one that works beautifully. Patrick Taylor, himself a doctor, indeed an Irish doctor transplanted to Canada, has told Fingal's story in chapters that alternate between the '30's in Dublin's tenements to the '60's ( which serves as the present ) in a small country village.

In the tenements the newly minted medical man is young, single, idealistic, enthusiastic--all the things we all are as we embark on our life's journey. Bright eyed and energetic with his mother's heart and love for those less fortunate, Fingal becomes a beloved member of the dirty, impoverished, disease-ridden area in which the irascible Dr Corrigan runs the dispensary in which the young doctor is given his first job. He even, over time acquires a nickname, Dr Big Felleh, and the the affection and admiration of the unmarried, childless mentor with whom he works.

The alternating chapters find a man thirty years older, recently married to what appears to have been an old girl friend, the one who got away, so to speak. He is still enthusiastic and caring but there is a maturity about him though no lack of caring about his patients and certainly the same belonging to his community of Balleybucklebo. His patients are less impoverished though not all are what one would call affluent. The respect and admiration, even affection, of his community is evident and obviously returned. It is he who runs a dispensary now and instead of a shared flat with a fellow medical man he owns a pleasant home in which he employs a delightful cook and maid, the wonderful Kinky, so. His assistant, a young man who cannot decide whether he wants to remain in General Medicine or specialize, has taken a leave to explore his options and Fingal has employed a young woman doctor, Jenny, to fill in.

The interwoven stories lead one easily from Dublin to Balleybucklebo. We learn how Kitty got away and how, eventually, she becomes his wife some 30 years later. There are changes in medicine during these thirty years, also. Antibiotics were not around during his early years of practice and as a modern reader sees people suffer with infection and death or near death situations it is impossible not to feel the helplessness Fingal experiences and his joy when he is able to turn around a case. As a woman the advancements made in female medicine is nothing short of miraculous and with Jenny I'm happy to have borne my child, at 43, in these days rather than when my Mom at 18 in 1919 lost a full term breech birth child. A delivery accident in which her baby's medulla was pierced in an effort to turn her around resulted in the infant's death within days.

It would seem that this book is the eighth in a series and that a ninth, according to Kinky, is in the works. Most of the time I'd be sorry not to have read the earlier installments but for some reason I'm glad this is the one with which I've started. When I read the others I will see Fingal in his early years and go with him down his path but unlike him I will know what the future holds--at least where he will be and with whom in the '60's. Don't we all wish we knew, sometimes,what the future holds? Kinky says the next book will even tell about Fingal's first marriage--since both he and Kitty did take different routes out of Dublin in the '30's. Can't wait--but, Dr Taylor, take your time--I have a little catching up to do!

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