14/09/2009

An Irish Country Village (by Patrick Taylor)

While I've quite enjoyed some of the books about young men in a variety of jobs - in particular those by James Herriot and Gervase Phinn - they're not the kinds of books I would go out and buy, or even place on my wishlist. I would probably never have come across Patrick Taylor at all if I hadn't been sent his most recent publication by The Bookbag site for review.

"An Irish Country Village" is actually a novel, rather than an embellished autobiographical account, although no doubt some of his anecdotes are based on real experiences. It's the story of Barry Laverty, a young GP in his first practise, under the somewhat irascible Fingal O'Reilly, who reminded me fairly strongly of Herriot's Siegfried Farnon.

So, the book covers medical incidents: from a child's cut finger to a difficult home birth; from conjunctivitis to emergencies requiring hospital treatment. It's set in a fictional Ulster village in the 1960s, when life was gentler, and villagers looked out for one another. There's low-key romantic tension in the book, due to the lively and ambitious Patricia, and there's also an ongoing thread about a potential lawsuit, after one of Barry's patients dies.

I didn't find particularly amusing or gripping, but it was a good book to pick up at odd moments to peruse, and I found myself often in sympathy with Barry, learning the ropes and learning that best practise in country medicine does not always fit with the academic theory.

My only criticism is that the conversations felt rather stilted and long-winded, with some unecessary bits of dialogue that added nothing to either plot or characterisation, and some irritating asides when we're told the meaning of some phrase or other, rather than gathering what it meant from context.

But all in all, a good light read. It's the sequel to 'An Irish Country Doctor', which I haven't read. It stands alone although it would probably be best to read them in order. There are a lot of different people in this book, and I expect it would have been easier to keep track of who was whom if I'd read the first book.


My longer review of 'An Irish Country Doctor' can be found at the Bookbag site.

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