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Posts Tagged ‘the matchmaker of kenmare’

I said, “Kate, you’re so many things — how do I know what you are at any given moment?”

She said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I am.  I’m the Fourth Fate.”

This is very grandiose, ran my hostile mind.

She went on.  “You don’t know, do you, who the Fates were?”

I said, trying not to sound tart or smart, “One spun the thread of life, one handed it out, and one cut it.”

“And I draw two of those threads together,” she said.  “Two lives, and I knot them to each other.  I’m the destiny that those two people harness.”

(from The Matchmaker of Kenmare, pages 147-148 in the ARC)

My eyes were opened to the beauty of Frank Delaney’s writing when I read (and loved) Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show last year, and when I was offered a copy of the sequel AND I learned that it was set during World War II (my favorite time period for literature), I just couldn’t say no.  And after I turned the last page of The Matchmaker of Kenmare, my first thought was that Delaney is a master storyteller.

Ben MacCarthy returns as narrator in The Matchmaker of Kenmare, which opens in 1943.  He wanders Ireland collecting stories for his job with the Irish Folklore Commission and searching for his missing wife, Venetia.  Ben meets Kate Begley, a matchmaker who lives in the coastal village of Kenmare, while seeking information about matchmaking in rural Ireland, and the two immediately become close friends.  The stunning and unique Venetia Kelly was the star of Delaney’s previous novel, and this time around, the feisty and fascinating Kate Begley takes center stage.

Miss Begley is not just a successful matchmaker; she also can pinpoint the whereabouts of people using a map, a needle, and an object belonging to the missing person.  She spouts wise sayings, has a fearless, take-charge attitude, and will not listen to reason when she believes something deep in her heart.  I was captivated by Kate from the very beginning, and it’s easy to see why Ben’s feelings for her are complicated and why he will follow her anywhere — even on a journey from neutral Ireland into war-torn France and Belgium.

Ben narrates the story as an old man, telling his children how he and Miss Begley inserted themselves into the war when she falls in love with an American officer, Charles Miller, who asks her to recover someone crucial to the Allied war effort.  Miller is an undercover operative who is hard to figure out but earns the regard of both Ben and Miss Begley, and Kate’s undying devotion to him puts Ben face-to-face with the Nazis and forces him to question his personal neutrality with regard to love and war.

Storytelling is an important part of The Matchmaker of Kenmare, from the tales Ben collects for work to the notebook entries he references when telling his and Kate’s story.  Having read Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, I was prepared for Ben’s many digressions and his foreshadowing of events that would occur later in the novel.  Even though Ben’s digressions cause the story to move a bit slowly in parts, they are never boring.  In fact, it took me a week (off and on) to read this book because I wanted to savor it.  However, I can see how readers unfamiliar with Ben’s narrative style might want things to move faster; it took me about 70 pages to really get into Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, but by then, I was hooked.

The Matchmaker of Kenmare is so much more than a story about love and war.  It’s a novel about devotion and friendship, and even when the events that transpire seem a bit far-fetched, Delaney makes it feel real.  Delaney’s appreciation of mythology and folklore shines through, and he makes some pretty convincing comparisons between wolves and the Nazi officers whom Ben and Kate encounter.  Delaney brilliantly paces the novel to create the right amount of tension, and Ben’s narrative — in which he has no trouble spelling out his faults and reminiscing about where he went wrong — is as heartbreaking as it is exciting.  I can’t wait to read more of Delaney’s work in the future.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Matchmaker of Kenmare from MEIER for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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