The public library's new books shelves are a delight to me, so much so that I often forget the list of books to read that lives on the back pages of my journal. This week I plucked off the shelf An Irish Country Christmas, by Patrick Taylor (Tom Doherty Associates, 2008). This book epitomizes a genre I love, what I call Irish nostalgia, the sort of book that Maeve Binchey does well. Taylor has hit the NY Times Best Seller List with his previous book about the fictional village of Ballybucklepo. (I pronounce it Bally-buck-lepo, based on the hyphenation when it runs over the line, and unpronounceable otherwise in my mind.) The book resembles another series that I like, the All Creatures Great and Small books that feature the doings of a country vet in a by-gone rural England. Like those books, Taylor's novel features a crusty, good hearted senior partner and a novice partner learning from experience what it means to become part of a community of odd characters and odder events.
I cannot help admiring this happy-ever-after book, despite its marzipan world in which the good come to no harm and the bad repent, despite its many information dumps: one could now do a fair job of delivering a breach birth after reading about Fingal, the senior doctor, doing just that in a cottage, with minimal equipment and supported by his own sweetheart, conveniently an experienced nurse and an equally wise midwife. The book is riddled with literary quotes and scientific/medical trivia, under the guise of a competitive brain game the two doctors play regularly. Like other nostalgia fiction, however, this book soothes and refreshes. Knowing a bit of the history of No. Ireland, I don't expect to find Ballybucklepo when I visit Ulster next month. It won't be on the map, because it exists in dreams. This is Dickens without the dark. Poverty in Ballybucklepo is benign, an opportunity to share, and The Troubles have long ended there. No one dies, and Christmas is a white setting for roast turkey, mince pie, and gifts for all. If only it were true.