The Matchmaker of Kenmare
World War II, or “The Emergency,” as it’s referred to in neutral Ireland, is in its fourth year, and researcher Ben MacCarthy is traveling around Ireland gathering tales for the Folklore Commission. Ben makes his living listening to the stories of others, which is a convenient way to ignore his own sad tale of loss and despair. When he meets Miss Kate Begley, matchmaker to all who ask her assistance (and some who don’t), he begins to tell his own story in response to her sharp queries, and his healing begins. The arrival of military intelligence officer Charles Miller disrupts everyone’s world: the usually-unflappable Miss Begley falls for the handsome American, Ben senses Miller isn’t telling the truth about his work and life, and the reader discovers that Irish neutrality doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t wartime politics and military activities taking place in that country.
What follows is an adventure into the underside of World War II, complete with spies, intrigue, and danger. Ben’s re-telling of his and Miss Begley’s travels to England and Europe brings to life the stories of the people they meet along the way—from German soldiers to resistance fighters to the people who are trying to live their lives in the midst of war. While some of their later ventures may at first seem outlandish, Miss Begley’s attitudes towards people and life tie the disparate pieces together into a world that makes sense. Delaney’s descriptions, told from Ben’s Folklore Commission point of view, evoke a wide range of images, from the peaceful pastures of Ireland to the war-torn villages of Germany. He skillfully portrays the physical and emotional effects of the changing world in the lives of two would-be bystanders who get caught up in the turmoil on their way to finding their true selves.