Book Critique - An Irish Country Doctor (Irish Country Series #1)

For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A lovely read into the lives of two Irish Country Doctors who make their own mark in the lives of the village people while thoroughly entertaining the readers.

An Irish Country Doctor is the first book in the historical fiction, Irish Country Series, written by Patrick Taylor. It was first published as The Apprenticeship of Doctor Laverty in 2004 and later was republished with this title in United States in 2007. 

The series is set in the fictional village, Ballybucklebo, in rural Northern Island, in the 1960s. It follows the life and adventures of the novice doctor, Dr. Barry Laverty, as he starts his apprenticeship at the practice of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. 

During one of the library sales in my neighborhood, I came across three books from the series. The fact that it is based in Ireland, my favorite country, drove me to buy the books. However, the book covers added the weight as well. Unfortunately this first book that I bought later does not have a book cover, still I bought it because I like to read a series from the beginning always. 

Dr. Barry Laverty comes to the village of Ballybucklebo to work as an assistant to Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. However, he is neither prepared for the village folk and their lifestyle, nor for the unorthodox way Dr. O'Reilly treats his patients or does his practice. 

This book was named Book of the Month Club's Novel of the Month in March of 2007. We do meet both Dr. Laverty and Dr. O'Reilly in this book. However according to the author's note, Dr. O'Reilly makes his appearance first in his monthly column Stitches: The Journal of Medical Humour in 1995. Interesting that he expanded that character into a full-blown series. He also gives the readers explanation behind the name of the fictional village, Ballybucklebo. Another interesting tidbit. 

The author uses plenty of Ulster language weaved in with regular Irish / British English. It was a bit hard to understand a few words. Thankfully, he gave us a glossary at the end of the book explaining various words, idioms and phrases he took from Ulster dialect. There are some idioms and phrases from Irish English as well weaved within. 

Two things did surprise me though - one about the frequent use of profanity in the dialogues; and second, the usage of modern words like "thingy". Both seemed out of context for the time the book is set in. 

As his career as assistant progresses, Dr. Laverty also learns unconventional methods that his boss Dr. O'Reilly uses with his patients; learns to understand the village and it's life; while finding himself in the process.

The whole approach Dr. O'Reilly uses with his patients, reminded me of my father's second brother, who has passed away years ago. He was an RMP Doctor (Rural Medical Practitioner) in the village where he lived in India and was the go to person for everyone and every ailment in the village back then. 

"Ballybucklebo, where the orbits of people's lives swung on their orderly courses, preordained, highly individual, separate until nudged into a great planetary conjunction of the Fates…" - This pretty much sums up what Patrick was sending across to the readers with his plot. 

Patrick's love for literature and entertainment comes across clearly by the way he infuses the dialogues by both the doctors in the plot quoting lines from poems, novels and movies, referencing TV Shows and Movies, at every turn of the page. This definitely added more weight to the humor layer.

Hidden behind the humor that Patrick infuses in his plot, he shows how the two doctors address serious issues that come their way - go out of their way to drive a patient to a town hospital for surgery; help an unmarried pregnant woman while debating that abortions should be a right of women; encourage contraception for women; teaching the male population to pull their weight in the family business; about the injustice and racial discrimination that was occurring at the other places in world at that time.

Apart from the two reasons I mentioned in the beginning, I have two more reasons to want to read these books. I have read historical fictions, but they have been either Romantic Historical Fictions (the ones Madeline Hunter writes) or Paranormal Historical Fictions. This book however, is plain history mingled with life's truths, set in a time when modern medicine and technology progress was just beginning. The history part of the book attracted me first when I picked the book.

Another one being, I always wanted to be a doctor growing up. Various circumstances and my laziness to put more effort, lost that opportunity. However, due to that I always love fiction and romance books that are set around doctors or practice of medicine more than others.

The author also includes four Ulster recipes at the end, of which two I would definitely want to try as they are vegetarian. If I do try, I will for sure post them here. But for the Ulster language that took a while to pick up, this has been an easy read, pleasant with less dangers however, weaved with surprises around human nature. 

A lovely read into the lives of two Irish Country Doctors who make their own mark in the lives of the village people while thoroughly entertaining the readers. Cant wait to pick the next book in the series soon.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Dr. O'Reilly loves Old Bushmills Irish Whiskey, which happens to be a particular favorite of mine too. Infact I am partial to Irish Whiskey compared to others. 

b. Author has several references to literature and entertainment in this book:

i. Dr. Barry quotes a few lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1797-98 poem , The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; from The Host of The Air by William Butler Yeats; from The Convict of Clonmel by Jeremiah Joseph Callahan; from Galway Races, an Irish Song, by Donal O'Shaughnessy; 

ii. TV Shows from 1950s and 1960s - Tales of Wells Fargo; Dr. Kildare

iii. Dr. O'Reilly quotes a few lines from The Tyger by William Blake; Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth; lines from Stalky and Co., by Rudyard Kipling; lines from Kipling's If; 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Dr. O'Reilly's family - Mrs. Kincaid "Kinky" (housekeeper); Arthur Guinness (his very enthusiastic dog);

b. Dr. Barry's friends and family - Jack Mills (his friend at Campbell College); Patricia Spence (love interest); 

c. Other characters:

i. Seamus & Maureen Galvin, their infant boy named Barry Fingal Galvin.

ii. Maggie MacCorkle & Sonny - neighbors and one time love birds, reunite at the end of the plot.

iii. Dermot & Bridget Kennedy, daughter Jeannie

iv. Donal Donnelly & Julie MacAteer - Julie is pregnant.

v. Councillor Bertie Bishop

vi. Major Basil Fotheringham & his wife

vii. The Marquis of Ballubucklebo

viii. Declan Finnigan & his wife


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