An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

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An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A heart-warming book set in Ulster in the nineteen-sixties which tells the story of the first few weeks which a newly-qualified doctor spends in the village of Ballybucklebo. It's an ideal, relaxing read. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Brandon
ISBN: 978-0863224003

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When it's Easter Sunday and you've got a streaming cold you need something soothing and gentle on the soul - and a book which would take me back to the Ulster I knew so well in the nineteen-sixties, before the Troubles took hold, was just what the Doctor ordered. And here we've got a couple of Doctors – Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, veteran of the Second World War and long time resident of Ballybucklebo and Barry Laverty – newly qualified and just arrived in the village to be assistant to O'Reilly.

Ballybucklebo's an invention of Patrick Taylor's, but it's set firmly on the south side of Belfast Lough between the city and Bangor. There's a railway line, church, pub, houses and shops and a wonderful cast of characters. Now, don't be looking for subtlety, because the people are good (most of them) or bad (just a few, but real villains). O'Reilly's been in the village for a couple of decades and he knows all the secrets – or if he doesn't, his housekeeper, Mrs Kincaid (Kinky to her friends) certainly does.

Dr. Laverty's a bit different. He's young. He's newly qualified and an idealist. He knows that there are ways that things should be done and it's something of a shock when he realises that O'Reilly is a little cavalier over such matters. An Irish Country Doctor follows Laverty's first few weeks in the village and we see his triumphs and failures and the dawning realisation that the way he was taught to do things at medical school might be right, but it's not always effective.

It was a time when a woman's place was in the home and a woman like Patricia Spence was unusual. Barry Laverty falls for her when he first sees her on the train, but Patricia's determined to have a career and she wants to be an engineer. As if being female wasn't enough of a disadvantage, she contracted polio in the 1951 epidemic and walks with a limp. We look back on that with disbelief now but in the sixties the outbreak was still fresh in everyone's mind.

Medical science had come on since the fifties but some of the advances were being ignored in Ireland. Contraception is still a thorny issue and the Pill – available on the mainland – isn't available to the Doctors' patients. There's a still a decided stigma about producing children out of wedlock and for most young girls a pregnancy is going to mean a trip to Liverpool to have the baby and then to have it adopted. It's a balancing act for O'Reilly and Laverty – they can't put everything right, but sometimes a little manipulation of the rules and medical science can ensure a better outcome.

They're wonderful stories, you know. You'll laugh, you'll smile and sometimes you'll gasp at the audacity of it all. Something I did discover though is that there are at least a couple of Doctors who can do something to make you feel better when you have a cold.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you're looking for more fiction set in Ireland we can recommend Soft Voices Whispering by Adrienne Dines or Evening Class by Maeve Binchy. If you'd like a book with more of a bite to it then any thing by Orna Ross should hit the spot.

Buy An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor at

Buy An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor at


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George Payerle said:

Dear Bookbag,

Your review of Patrick Taylor's Irish Country Doctor is indeed fair and charming, but fails to emphasize the fact that the book is hilariously funny. The author's background as a native of Bangor who is now retired from decades of service as a physician and surgeon provides the veracity of experience to an utterly Irish line of blarney. Taylor himself embodies the improbable extremes of his characters O'Reilly and Laverty.

Yours, George Payerle, On the west coast of Canada

Sue replied:

I stand corrected, George!