Saturday, April 1, 2017

BOOKS: Reading Ireland in March

An Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor, (13 h, 45 min)

book 5 in the series

Just a delightful, easy listen!

I've been slowing working my way through this series, and sometimes I've found the earlier books drag. Not much happens and it seems the print book could be edited at times. However, I'm finding the audiobooks to be a fast listen. Generally, a 14 hour listen is daunting, but  with this book, I flew through it. I take that as a sign of how I've enjoyed a book: when I listen to it at every chance I can get, I obviously enjoyed it.

It is 1965 in Ballybucklebo, Northern Ireland. The young GP Barry Laverty has been in the village for about six months, working with Dr Fingal O'Reilly. There are local characters (lovable lout Donal, the gruff housekeeper Kinky Kinkaid, the corrupt councillor Bishop) and each doctor has his romantic problems deciding what they want. Barry is learning more and more how to handle patients about town, but is still trying to decide if he should specialize.

Similar to The Number One Ladies Detective Agency books in their gentleness and humour, but a little less zen-like. I'll keep listening to this series. Next one is A Dublin Student Doctor

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch by Anne Enright, 230 pages

I'm a huge fan of Enright's writing, The Gathering, The Forgotten Waltz, and The Green Road. This older novel is quite different, starting with the topic: Eliza Lynch was a real woman in the mid 1800s who became the 'wife' of a Paraguayan leader. Historical fiction set in South America is a very different plot than the other books I've read.

The writing is still there, less facts than impressions. After finishing this novel I was wanting to look up some information about Eliza, to sense how much was true. (Much.)

The story is told from two perspectives: Eliza's and also Dr Stewart, a Scotsman who makes the trip to Paraguay and stays. I preferred Eliza's version, and overall, I wasn't sure what the main idea was. There weren't enough tangible facts to make it about the war in Paraguay, but I never got a personal sense about Eliza either.

I'll try another Enright: Yesterday's Weather or What Are You Like?

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, 258 pages

Teacher Man finishes up the memoir trilogy of McCourt that started with Angela's Ashes and Tis,

(Shall we also include his brother Malachy's memoir A Monk Swimming? The title is from a malapropism from the third line of the Hail Mary - makes me laugh every time)

This one started off good - funny stories about getting started out in teaching, so I could relate. It was neat to see how teenagers haven't really changed in all these years as McCourt started teaching in the late 1960s. Kids are all the same. McCourt has a way with words and he survived in the classroom telling the stories about his horrific childhood in Ireland. This probably helped him get his ideas organized for Angela's Ashes.

But that's all the book is. He moves around to a few other schools, back to Ireland for a PhD in literature, back to New York for more teaching. More stories from the classroom. I enjoyed it, but I didn't get a sense of narrative, other than just his stories. They were good, but it felt like there should have been a bit more. Of something.