By: Patrick Taylor
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: January 2010
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: April 5, 2010
In a departure from the other “Irish Country” books, author Patrick Taylor leaves the Ireland of the 1960s and the daily lives of Doctors O’Reilly and Laverty and takes the reader back to the childhood of Mrs. Kinky Kincaid, the doctors’ housekeeper.
The story begins on Christmas Day, 1964. The doctors have just left for an open house held by the Marquis of Ballybucklebo and Kinky can now turn her attention to a group of village children who have been invited into the house for some warm drinks, mince pies, and a story of the St. Stephen’s Day ghost.
Kinky quickly settles into her storytelling, interrupted only by occasional questions from the mesmerized children. The housekeeper tells the girls and boys of her childhood home in County Cork, and of Conner MacTaggart, a young man she liked but her older sister Fidelma hoped to marry. Connor needed firewood for the winter and planned to cut down a tall blackthorn tree near his cottage. Upon hearing his plan, Kinky’s mother became deathly serious and warned, “Don’t you dare touch that tree, Connor MacTaggart. Leave it alone entirely.” Mrs. Arbuthnot (Kinky’s mother), believed the Doov Shee, or dark faeries, lived under the tree, and to cut it down would bring Connor bad luck…or worse.
Connor ignored Mrs. Arbuthnot’s advice and cut the tree down. It wasn’t long before her warning proved true and Connor was pursued by the queen of the Doov Shee. The young man should have heeded the warning and left the tree alone.
Kinky tells the children the rest of Connor’s tale and then sends the youngsters on their way. Alone in the house with her thoughts and a cup of tea, Kinky reminisces about her life, the choices she made and the man she fell in love with. Along the way, the reader learns much about Kinky Kincaid, including how she was given the gift of “fey” or “second sight.”
An Irish Country Girl is a book rich in Irish mythology with a narrator who excels in building a rich and vivid tale. As Connor wanders to a lonely hillside to check on his sheep, the raven watches him and the fog seeps along the ground. You can feel the dampness as the fog approaches and sense the impending danger.
It should be noted that An Irish Country Girl is written in the heavy Irish brogue that the characters speak. “Bet you got off school for a clatter of days. That’s wheeker, so it is.” (pg. 71) It took me a while to get into the story due to the language and terminology. There is a glossary of terms in the back of the book, and for this reader it was referred to often. If you can get past the authentic Irish dialect, then you’ll likely enjoy this story of faeries, ghosts, and a young woman growing up and making life choices.
Quill says: Kinky Kincaid takes the reader on an entertaining journey through the Irish countryside.