Tuesday, 8 June 2010

An Irish Country Doctor - Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Doctor (2007) is the first novel in a series of books by Irish doctor and author Patrick Taylor. Set in the small fictional town of Ballybucklebo in the Ulster province in Northern Ireland, it is the story of a new doctor, Barry Laverty, MB, finding his feet as he takes up his first professional placement as an assistant to long-established and slightly eccentric Dr Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. As unorthodox and sometimes questionable as O'Reilly's practices may appear to be, Laverty comes to see that his patients' physical ailments are sometimes only a small symptom of what's really going on in their lives. O'Reilly understands this and treats everyone according to his interpretation of their issues, while still maintaining what he calls "the upper hand".

An Irish Country Doctor is a warm, comfortable read. Taylor's writing style is both compassionate and humourous, never taking himself, or Ulster rural life, too seriously. It starts off very promising, giving glimpses into the lives of the country folk of Ballybucklebo from the perspective of their long-suffering GP. However, it never really does more than tiptoe around the edges of these folks' lives. We are introduced to the quirks and eccentricities of a large cast of characters, who are all assembled at a rip-roaring hooley towards the end, but are left with a somewhat superficial understanding of who they are and what really makes them tick. Personal histories are hinted at, a few are gently elaborated upon, but the end of the novel suggests that the story has barely started. Perhaps that's what the rest of the books in the series are for?

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