An Irish Country Village

Written by Patrick Taylor
Review by Nancy Henshaw

Ulster in the 1960s. In the village of Ballybucklebo, 24-year-old Dr Barry Laverty gladly accepts a year as full-time assistant in Dr Fingal O’Reilly’s general practice, leading to a partnership. O’Reilly, huge, fierce but friendly, is generous in sharing his vast experience with Barry, allowing him as many opportunities as a young doctor could wish for. The patients are wonderfully diverse and entertaining; maddening and beguiling turn and turn about. Housekeeper Mrs Kincaid is a superb cook, the countryside is glorious, and beautiful Patricia Spence obviously likes his company. Barry ought to be a happy man but Patricia is an ambitious engineering student and an enthusiastic feminist who is aiming for a Cambridge scholarship. If she is successful they will be parted for months on end. The sole weakness in this novel is the failure of their romantic encounters to strike compelling sparks. Intelligent and articulate, these two honest and caring people are somewhat too calm and clearheaded in dealing with strong emotional problems.

Worse is in store for Barry. The unforeseen death of a patient calls for a nerve-racking investigation and suspicion from Ballybucklebo’s inhabitants. In the ensuing weeks, and with the unfailing support of Dr O’Reilly, Barry gains maturity and confidence. The multiplicity of medical emergencies is rivetingly graphic, from 1960s cutting edge expertise to traditionally based swift improvisation.

The Races held under the auspices of the kindly Marquis of Ballybucklebo provide two hilarious chapters in this delightful book.