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Literary Friday: The Matchmaker of Kenmare

Saturday, March 5, 2011


This week I read The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney.  He is one of my favorite writers, and a master storyteller!  I have read several of Delaney's other books:
Shannon, &
Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show.

The Matchmaker of Kenmare is a sequel to Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show. It begins in mid-1943 during the Great Emergency, or what neutral Ireland called World War II.  It is the continuing story of Ben MacCarthy, a story collector for the Irish Folklore Commission.  His job entails traveling all over Ireland collecting and recording stories that reflect Ireland's rich oral storytelling tradition.  Ben's travels lead him to Kenmare, where he meets Miss Kate Begley and her grandmother, both practitioners of the ancient art of matchmaking.  Ben is mesmerized by Kate and her craft.  He also learns that Kate has other amazing skills.  For example, she can "find" missing or wanted persons with an item the person has touched, a map, thread, and a needle.  Magic seems to surround Miss Kate Begley.

Soon after Ben's arrival, Charles Miller, an American military intelligence officer, arrives at Kate's cottage on the shore.  He needs something from Kate that has little to do with matchmaking.  Kate has other plans, and Charles and Kate come to an agreement: if she proves herself in a "test", Charles will marry Kate.  After some language training in London, Kate and Ben travel to the continent for their mission. They go back into the middle of the war two more times.  Kate and Ben are put through hell... all because of Kate's infallible faith in promises she means to keep and knowledge she knows in her heart to be true.

Ben's devotion to Kate and their friendship is tested after the war as Kate awaits Charles' return. She refuses to believe rumors of his execution by German intelligence officers.  She embarks with Ben to America where she diligently meets every ship sailing into New York Harbor.  After many months, Kate insists they travel to the very center of America: Lebanon, Kansas. Charles promised he would meet her there after the war if they failed to rendezvous in Ireland.

One of the central themes of the book is whether or not a man and a woman can be friends, or remain neutral, without the relationship ever evolving into something deeper.  After knowing what Ben endures in Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, I want to shake Ben. Why is it that he attracts these beautiful, strong-willled women who manipulate him?  Ben is not stupid by any means; he knows he is being manipulated, yet he allows it.  But I must also admit that Ben MacCarthy is one of the most intriguing fellows in contemporary fiction.  I can't get enough of his story!

Both books are told from Ben's point of view, and the intended audience for his memoirs are central to his odyssey, but I can't tell you more because it would be too much of a spoiler. Frank Delaney never disappoints, and although the backdrop of this story is war, destruction, loss, and heartbreak, the characters and plot have many shining moments. You know these characters, and you actually care about them.  I also love the way Delaney weaves folklore and history into the plot.  I hope that Mr. Frank Delaney will put this reader out of her misery and write a third book about Ben because I think there is more to this story. And, like a modern-day Ulysses, I want Ben to find his way home, finally.

If you'd like to see a neat video for the novel, click here.

Remember that Bonnie and I host a What We're Reading Linky Party the twentieth of every month.  In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I will post about Frank Delaney's Ireland.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Okay so now I see I need to start with the first book in this series. I can't wait to read these. Wonder if our library would have it or is his work not widely known? I'll have to check the online file.

  2. I love that you bring something new to the table with your book reviews, Ricki, you encourage me to take time to myself and begin one. And I like that! xoxo tami

  3. Thanks so much for this review! It's on my 'to read' list (after I tackle Ireland...the novel, not the country). :)

  4. well done, Ricki!
    thx for the reminder at FHC!
    and hoping you might joint the swap with whatever you're ready to part with and possibilities you'd enjoy...
    are you on goodreads?
    looking forward to the 20th !...

  5. This sounds so interesting! I may have to check this one out for my next read. I'm almost done with A Discovery of Witches.

  6. Great review! But DO check out the book trailer for "The Matchmaker of Kenmare" on Frank's We hope you like it!

    As a note to one of the comments: You don't really have to read "Venetia Kelly" to enjoy "The Matchmaker.." - I know someone who read them backwards (Matchmaker first) and LOVED them - And Frank tells me that the next book is well on it's way!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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