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Diagnostic case studies interspersed by narrative
on November 23, 2012
Patrick Taylor enjoys a fervent following of loyal fans for his prolific Irish Country novels so I was intrigued. This, the sixth in the series, is somewhat of a retroactive prequel about Doctor Fingal Flaherty O'Reilly's student days. It was the first of his novels I have read and maybe I realized too late that this was the wrong place to jump on board. My second mistake was buying a book about a student doctor's medical studies written by "a distinguished medical researcher" (as per the jacket blurb).
This book for me was more like diagnostic case studies and medical treatments interspersed by the required doses of prosaic narrative to tie it together. True, I should have been forewarned by the title of the book, but nevertheless I said to myself numerous times that "this Dr Taylor is a bit of a show-off" giving the readers the A-to-Z of every ailment and complication. Could I be excused for buying the book with the hope of being entertained, instead of taking up medicine? So, I felt there was a surfeit of medical detail in this novel and rather a lack of the elements that make a novel great. There is a lot of dialogue in the book but so much of it is trivial banter between friends, shooting-the-breeze stuff. Even when dramatic events were happening I had difficulty being emotionally committed.
Not having read the previous books I became confused at the end where in the present time frame (1965) Fingal and Kitty are not married but clearly attracted to one another. But, just a few pages before that, in the earlier time frame (the 1930's), the couple had reunited after previously breaking up and were on the their way to meet his family so that he could introduce her to them [as his intended]. I had to return to the first chapter to try to sort out that conundrum. The ending should have clarified how their relationship went nowhere in the 30's. I am not getting another book to find out.
Taylor can be given top marks for his knowledge of Irish colloquial localisms and authenticity. An appendix (no medical reference intended) contains a fifteen page glossary. Reading it makes either a strong argument for the wonderful richness of English as it is so diversely spoken around the world, or makes a logical proposition that Esperanto could be put to good use as a communicative tool by English speakers from diverse cultures. I am sorry, but as a non-medical professional I found this book to be quite boring and bland, not devoid of merit but one for loyal followers of the series, fans of the author's writing style and, especially, the medically inclined.