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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Return to Ballybucklebo, Fingal O'Reilly and His Service in The Royal British Navy in WWII

An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea: An Irish Country Novel (Irish Country #11)An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea: An Irish Country Novel by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While this could certainly be read as a stand alone, it would be far more enjoyable if at least a couple of the earlier books have been read first. The series follows an older GP, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly practicing in the Ulster County town of Ballybucklebo. It is in the earlier books that we meet O'Reilly as a widower living at One Main St with Mrs Kinkaid, his daily housekeeper. His surgery is attached to his home and it is here and in the local watering hole, The Duck, that many of the town's denizens are introduced to the reader. My favorite is Donal Donnelly, a man who falls into it and comes up roses every time--he is just amazing. There is the local aristocrat who is anything but aristocratic in his dealings with the townsfolk. And there is Bertie Bishop, the town Councillor. They are all here in this installment but their characters are built in the older books and here we see how they have changed over time, or not.

Again, in the earlier books, we meet Fingal's fellow doctor, Barry Laverty, when he first comes to town. It is really fun to see how the relationship has grown and developed. There are references to Fingal's wartime service, the loss of his first wife, his relationship with Barry's father in the older books, too.

All that being said, Patrick Taylor so deftly describes and develops his characters that they are appealing even if their earlier escapades are unknown to the reader--I've just found them more like old friends having met them before. In this part of the story, Fingal is 25 years away from the war but he is reminded of many of his wartime experiences and the story goes back and forth between the present--that is to say the '60's in Ulster and the British navy in World War II and Fingal's service.

For some such flashbacks might be disconcerting but those who have read the prior books will recognize the characters and enjoy the elaboration of themes that were only referenced before. On the other hand, such throwbacks in memory will be totally understood by the older reader, who also has built up a past of memories and who probably at certain times revisit them as well. For the younger reader, Barry's relationship with his fiancé, Sue, who is off in France and has met a young Frenchman with whom she is enjoying the sites, will resonate. As will the maternity cases and young child cases the doctor's encounter. If there is an interest in history, especially naval history, that theme will also appeal.

All in all, this series is interesting, the characters appealing and the setting bucolic. Ballybucklebo is a neat place to spend a few days, if not a lifetime.

This review is of an Advance Uncorrected Proof provided for unpaid, honest review by Goodreads.

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