These first two books in the Irish Country Books series are light-hearted stories recounting the experiences of freshly qualified Doctor Barry Laverty as he starts working for the larger-than-life, old-school Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.
All the main characters – both doctors, their housekeeper Mrs Kinky Kincaid, Barry’s sweetheart Patricia Spence, the young bandsman Donal Donelly, the arrogant Councillor Bertie Bishop, and others – are all vividly portrayed. Landscapes, weather and social events are described with colour and feeling, and the many overlapping plots are also well developed. All in all, we enjoy an entertaining tale and come to know the village of Ballybucklebo and it’s community as if we’d been there.
My reservations about the books, which lead me to rating them with only three stars, are the following:
- The author flaunts his detailed knowledge of classical literature, medicine and the Ulster geography in an irritating manner. Do we really need to know the sources of innumerable obscure quotes, the Latin terms for all their patients’ ailments and the names of the streets Barry drives through on his way to the Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital?
- Coincidental connections linking one patient to another, which prove highly instrumental in resolving otherwise intractable difficulties, come across as rather contrived.
- Gratuitously foul and blasphemous language used by many of the characters offends me, especially when reading aloud to my wife (!)