Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney

The Matchmaker of Kenmare Frank Delaney (Rated:C)
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6784-8
Random House
Published February 2011
Hardcover, 416 pages

Reviewed by Sandra

When I finished reading Delaney’s previous novel Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show I remember hoping for a sequel. Well, here it is in all its glory!

The novel takes place in Ireland and Europe during World War II. The story appears to be Ben Murphy’s relentless search for his wife and child (?) who disappeared under mysterious circumstances over a decade earlier. But that’s only part of the intrigue. Ben, the narrator is also writing a memoir of his life with Kate Begley – the matchmaker of Kenmare – a woman who successfully arranges marriages. Both Ben and Kate are in the 20’s. It is plain that Ben is attracted to her, though still pining for his wife, Venetia. Kate, however, falls in love with and marries an American soldier, who is a covert agent. Even after Kate’s marriage, Ben refers to her as “Miss Begley.” When Kate’s husband goes missing somewhere in Europe, Kate and Ben set off into France to find him and stumble into the war zone. Or, as Ben put it “we walked right into the Second World War.” Disastrous news awaits them they learn that Charles Miller, Kate’s husband, is missing in action, presumed dead. Kate absolutely refuses to believe that and drags Ben into the war zone again. Ben describes it as “that last, awful foray, during which all my views about life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and every other damn thing in the world were scuttled.” At one point they find themselves behind enemy lines fearing for their lives. Eventually they make it back home to Ireland and go their separate ways.

Ben finds his wife, but…….
Kate’s husband comes back into her life, but…..

This is a quirky novel peopled by unusual characters and circumstances. For example, when Ben first meets Kate she is on her hands and knees drawing a chalk line around the outside doormat. The reason is “this is to keep out the ants. Ants hate chalk. It makes them vomit.” At another point Ben describes Kate as “she speaks 3-1/2 languages.” Kate can find missing people by dangling a threaded needle over a map. Then there is the part about the man searching for a new set of teeth – new to him, that is. He does meet a shopkeeper who can provide those teeth and who “will hire them out to you for six months.”

Delaney uses delightful tidbits to keep the reader enthralled. For instance, Ben relates “that was the moment at which two strangers walked into the dance hall – and that was the beginning of so many things, and the continuation of so many things, and the end of so many things.”

The book is full of wonderful descriptions. For example, “a low sea-mist had draped the coast in a long gray stole.” Or what about “his face reminded me of brown wrapping paper that had been scrunched up into a ball and then smoothed out.”

The book is about love, espionage, matchmaking, history, mystery, renewal of hope, Ireland’s place in the war, and the meaning of true friendship. I believe Frank Delaney has another winner!

Disclosure: Thanks to Leah Paulos from Random House for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. This seems like the type of book that keeps you on your toes and leaves no space for boredom. Great review!

  2. I had no idea this is the sequel to Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show. I listened to Venetia and loved it, so I'll have to look for this one. I think I might go for the audio with it too.

  3. My mother is Irish, this looks like something I'd like to read.

  4. I think I definitely need to put both of these titles on my list. So many good books .... Ah, to have nothing to do but read away for a week or two! :)

  5. I didn't know this was a sequel! Venetia Kelly has been on my wishlist since I first saw it. If I win this one then I'll just have to go buy myself the other one, too :) Great review!

  6. This book looks delightful1 I am popping over form Mailbox Monday to read your review (which is great by the way--makes the book come alive) and I would love to win a copy.

  7. I also didn't know this was the sequel to Venetia Kelly which has been on my tbr forever. Glad to hear this follows up with just as much raves. I'm coming over from MM hoping for an extra entry :-)

  8. Great review - I have read Delaney's work before, but not this one in particular. Here for my 2nd entry in the contest!


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