Readers of Patrick Taylor's long-running Irish Country saga (A Dublin Student Doctor) have been entertained by the daily dramas of life in 1960s Ulster. An Irish Country Family, the 14th entry in the series, finds Dr. Barry Laverty and his wife, Sue, struggling to start a family as Barry continues to work in Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly's medical practice in the village of Ballybucklebo. Meanwhile, a local vote on the use of a certain property is causing strong feelings among the villagers, while religious and political unrest throughout Ireland is making everyone equally nervous. As always, the community comes together to support its own, with plenty of gentle humor along the way.
Taylor intersperses his main narrative, set in 1969, with extended flashbacks set six years earlier, when Barry was a medical student learning to deal with the grueling realities of life on the hospital floor and the struggles of his patients. He falls in love with a student nurse, Virginia; develops a friendship with a patient, a man fighting gangrene; and takes part in the annual student play at the hospital. In the later narrative, Barry and Fingal share their medical duties with several other young doctors, while Barry and Sue face possible infertility and Fingal (as always) has his finger in multiple local pies. Taylor's gentle, engaging narrative is peopled with familiar characters, but newcomers to Ballybucklebo will catch up quickly and enjoy the charm and warmth of the tightly knit community. Taylor's Ireland is always a pleasure to visit. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams