'The Matchmaker of Kenmare'
Author: Frank Delaney
Published: Random House; Feb., 2011
Genre: Historical fiction
Synopsis: In Delaney's panoramic sequel to Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, matchmaker Kate Begley plies her profession in neutral WWII Ireland. Into her life come Venetia Kelly narrator Ben MacCarthy, whose wife has gone missing, and Charles Miller, a U.S. intelligence officer who sends Kate and Ben on a secret assignment to France. Upon their return, Kate and Charles marry, but after D-Day, Charles disappears while on a dangerous mission, and Kate enlists Ben's help in finding him. They travel to France and Germany, where they stumble across the German army about to launch its last-gasp assault in the Ardennes and end up questioning the wisdom of remaining neutral in the face of overwhelming evil. An expert at mining Irish lore for congenial fiction, Delaney spins an exciting yarn of romance and intrigue, and, in Kate, he has created an indomitable, unforgettable character. Though the novel's leisurely pace is at odds with the wartime plot (and the subplot about Ben's missing wife will be confusing to those not familiar with the previous book), Delaney wrings the pulp out of a Jack Higgins–like premise and turns it into something more satisfyingly literary.
My Take: I'm just going to come right out with it: I was totally surprised I didn't fall in love with this book. It just didn't work for me. I think the pace of the narrative was completely off for me. Having not read the pre-quel to this book, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, I had hoped this wouldn't be a problem for me. Most of the time when I read novel's that aren't a 'series' per se they set up the characters back story and then dive right into the new story. While that may have been part of my problem, for me the real problem was the pace. It was all over the place!
Things I did like: The story is set in Ireland in WWII. WWII is one of my favorite 'sub-genres' within historical fiction and I did enjoy learning about Ireland's role within this war. For those that don't know, Ireland was neutral. Realizing that they were a small nation and having drained all of their resources in the Great War they decided this was the best position for them. However, England and Germany felt that Ireland was a landing point for their troops so as far as the historical aspects go, I really enjoyed reading this book. Our narrative centers mainly around Kate, said Matchmaker, and Ben, travelling around Ireland to document Irish folklore. Ben first meets Kate because her matchmaking skills are legendary and she is worth a story. I did enjoy the story of Kate and learning about how she brings people together. I could have just read a story, possibly without the whole war going on, set in a small Irish town, about a matchmaker, and been perfectly content!
Things I didn't like: As I said before, the pace of the book. A plot is set in motion for them to go to France as war spies. This is the crux of the story. What the whole story spins on. However, this doesn't even get set into place until 100 pages in. Normally I don't like to read reviews of books I'm going to read ahead of time in case of spoilers but all of them kept saying to keep reading. Well, 160 pages in and I was still struggling. For a book set in WWII, I expect a faster paced novel and having a stilted storyline and a slow moving narrative, it just didn't work for me.
Bottom Line: If you prefer slower paced novels and stories about Irish history and folklore, you will probably appreciate this one much more!
For other opinions about this novel please check out these reviews:
Debbie's Book Bag
The Burton Review
The Lost Entwife
Cover Lust: I do think this cover is beautiful! It's like a painting. It makes me want to go on vacation to Ireland, however it doesn't exactly say a war is on now does it? Maybe it should have been hinting at something just a little darker.