An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

Read: 29 December, 2013

Barry Laverty has taken a position as a doctor’s assistant in the small Irish village of Ballybucklebo – a town so small that he can barely find it on the map. When he arrives only to find the doctor, his new boss, in the middle of throwing a patient into a bush, he realises that his new life may take some getting used to.

An Irish Country Doctor is a sweet little read, unchallenging but enjoyable and heart-warming. The characters, though often rather stereotypical for this sort of story, are by measure amusing and sympathetic. The setting invokes a nostalgia for the simple country life, albeit one that the novel reminds us is in the middle of changing. As the author points out in his opening note: “The rural Ulster that I have portrayed has vanished.”

I was rather disappointed with the characterization of the love interest, Patricia. She is studying to be an engineer – hard enough for a woman today, let alone in the ’60s. Yet when she expresses her frustration, Barry somehow manages to make it all about him and how uncomfortable her feelings are for him. And though many events and conversations in the story should have given Barry some perspective on what Patricia was talking about, he never seems to make the connection – he never even tries to understand where she is coming from. The whole book is, at least in part, about him learning to see things the way his patients see them so that he can provide them with care that they will understand and accept, yet he just frustratingly manages never to apply that new-found skill to the one person he ought to have every motivation in the world to try and understand.

It’s a small complaint, though, since Patricia occurs only infrequently and is rather inconsequential to the plot.

The writing is solid, very readable. The pepperings of Ulster dialect/slang is a nice touch. The book is a great light, fluffy read to escape from a bad or stressful day.

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