From My Shelves: An Irish Country Christmas

“It was like a family reunion, and wasn’t that what Ballybucklebo was? And wasn’t he very glad to be a member of that family?” (454)

I’m doing book reviews on my blog in an effort to actually take all the books I own down off of the shelves and read them. This week I’m reviewing An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor.

I actually love the story of how I ended up with this book. Back in 2014, I was working in an office with several really wonderful women, and we decided to do a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. We each chose a name out of a hat, and then bought gifts for the person we chose. This book was the gift that I got, because my coworker knew that I loved Ireland and I loved Christmas and I loved reading (all of these things are still true).

If you haven’t noticed, I got the book three years ago and am just reading it for the first time now. I can’t remember why I didn’t read it that first year, but since then it has been lost. For obvious reasons, I’ve only wanted to read it during Christmas time, so when I didn’t find it before December 25th the last two years I just gave up.

This summer I went through all of my books and rearranged them, and so I knew exactly where the book was come December 1st and picked it up to read.

An Irish Country Christmas is part of a series of books starting with An Irish Country Doctor that follow Drs. O’Reilly and Laverty of Ballybucklebo, a small (fictional) town in Northern Ireland. Fingal O’Reilly is the owner of the local practice who has recently taken a young Barry Laverty, a recent graduate of medical school, on as his assistant. At the beginning of An Irish Country Christmas, Dr. Laverty is waiting for his sweetheart, a young civil engineer student in Cambridge named Patricia, to come home for Christmas. O’Reilly, an old bachelor, has a potential love interest of his own, as well, in an old friend named Kitty O’Halloran . The book follows several patients’ ailments, from a young boy with a strange rash, to his mother’s financial woes, to a bitter shopkeeper with chronic fatigue. Additionally, the two must deal with the doctor a town over, who is attempting to steal their patients.

I would go on about the plot, but honestly that’s about all there is. It follows the doctors in their every day lives, and not all too much exciting happens. It isn’t a complicated plot for a book that’s 471 pages.

As for how I felt about it? It was okay. I think that I kind of set myself up for failure with this one by reading two really fantastic Elizabeth Strout books in a row (Anything is Possible and Olive Kitteridge). This book kind of feels like a Hallmark movie in book form. Predictable plot, cheesy romances, cheesy interactions with patients, incredibly predictable and kind of unsatisfying ending. It was warm and fuzzy and happy and there was nothing sad or angry happening (although I was frustrated with the whole Barry and Patricia situation, more on that later). This certainly is not great literature, but it is a pleasant read if you want something warm and fuzzy at Christmastime.

The reason I can’t say too much good about this book is that while there were two really great female characters, I just felt weird about the two doctors’ actions and thoughts about women. The book seemed to spend a little bit too much time talking about how “shapely” women’s legs were and how “well they filled” their sweaters. It wasn’t like the book specifically talked down on women or anything, so I’m not sure why this bothered me so much. Also, (SPOILER ALERT SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU PLAN ON READING THIS BOOK), as aforementioned, the whole Barry Laverty and Patricia thing really bothered me. She was portrayed as a super ambitious girl with big dreams who loved the excitement of big cities, and he seemed really annoyed that she didn’t want to live in a small country town with him and cook his dinners and birth his children. The whole time I kept waiting for them to FINALLY break things off because obviously they weren’t meant for each other….they wanted completely different things out of life. But in the end, she shows up on their doorstep for Christmas dinner and they make up. What? It made me genuinely angry.

Anyway, I’m going to stop rambling on about the book. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I think I had higher expectations than I should’ve. If you’re looking for a warm and cozy book that takes place in Northern Ireland and is all about Christmas, by all means this could be your cup of tea.

You can find out where to buy it here.

As for whether or not I’m keeping it? I honestly think that I will. It was a really nice and thoughtful gift, and it has some Irish Christmas recipes in the back that maybe I’ll try. At the very least, the cover is beautiful, and the setting is beautiful. I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again, but I’ll keep it around just in case.

(Yes, this is why I have so many books. I even keep the ones I didn’t like).

Thanks for stopping by today!

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