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The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of…

The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of Ireland

by Frank Delaney

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There are no leprechauns in Frank Delany's The Matchmaker of Kenmare. Even so it qualifies as an Irish tall tale. Narrator Ben McCarthy, also the hero of Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, works as a folklorist. He travels about the Irish countryside in the early days of World War II collecting folk tales. While investigating the work of matchmakers, he meets Kate Begley, a young woman who is learning the business from her grandmother.

Ben becomes smitten with Kate, but there are a couple of problems. First, if you've read the earlier novel you'll know that he is married to actress Venetia Kelly, who has disappeared. While Ben roams the countryside, he continues his search for his missing wife. Second, while Kate likes Ben, she loves a dashing American officer named Charles Miller, and she enlists Ben's help as she tries to make her own match with him.

Amazingly, Ben goes along with Kate's plans, which soon involve sneaking into occupied France to kidnap a German officer and bring him back to Ireland. Before the war, Kate had found a wife for the German, who it turns out is only too happy to be rescued from the war and taken back to neutral Ireland. Upon returning with her prize for Charles, he agrees to marry her. Then he leaves for the war.

Soon Kate enlists Ben's aid once again. Charles, who has earned the nickname Killer Miller, is missing in action and presumed dead, but Kate remains convinced he is still alive. She and Ben return to France and go behind enemy lines to look for him. I don't know which is harder to believe: that a woman would venture into a war zone to find her husband to bring him home with her, that another man (who also loves her) would help her or that members of the underground would put their lives at risk for such a crazy scheme.

The search for Charles (and Venetia) continues even after the war's end and takes Ben and Kate to America, where they travel halfway across the country in the company of a giraffe. I said this was a tall tale. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jul 17, 2013 |
Set during World War 11 “The Matchmaker of Kenmare” is a lush novel rich in myth, sometime hilarious and at times heartbreaking, a stirring story of loss, friendship, romance and sacrifice. The protagonist Ben MacCarthy, an Irish folklore aficionado, narrates a very touching segment in his life as he wanders the country in search of his missing wife Venetia Kelly (we first met her in “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show”).

The story has a very slow start and opens with Ben meeting Kate Begley, known as the matchmaker of Kenmare. The two naively pride themselves of being neural during the start of the devastating war but as their relationship developed and the war dragged on they become more and more involved in aiding the Americans on the European front. Both Kate and Ben had an agenda: Kate was looking for her husband who went missing in action and Ben his wife who mysteriously disappeared. The story picks up and becomes far more interesting and evolves into a memorable war story as Kate and Ben are pinned down in Europe’s battlefields…..they find themselves way over their heads and must survive at all cost…

The story is narrated in the first person by a senior Ben to his children in a rambling style that is quite entertaining at times. He relives and shares with them the many tales he collected in his travels during his younger and more challenging years. The prose successfully creates a vivid image of the time and especially the complexities of the Irish culture with great depth and skill. The novel started off in a tedious manner but I persisted and I am glad I did. The strong writing, the warm characters and the unexpected turn of events gradually hyped my interest to the end.

Looking back, I can honestly say I enjoyed this haunting tale. ( )
  Tigerpaw70 | Jul 4, 2012 |
In a story that weaves Irish myth into wartime travels, Miss Kate Begley, the Matchmaker of Kenmare helps Ben McCarthy, a story collector of the Irish Folklore commission, cope with the grief of the sudden disappearance of his wife Venetia Kelly. When an American military intelligence officer arrives in Kenmare, Kate and Ben are drawn into the war conflict when they use the neutrality of the Irish heritage to travel to London and operate as spies, where they discover the perils of both love and war.
  SalemAthenaeum | Jun 16, 2011 |
Ben MacCarthy, we first met in Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show.
I thought I would have another go as I liked Venetia's story.
I think perhaps I should have lt it be. Although the characters
of Ben and Kate were interesting, and Ben likable if weak, I still
felt somewhat mired in the story.

To me, three stars is a good solid read. This book missed being a
four star read simply due to its lag. I understand that Delaney
is a storyteller, and that is different from simply being a writer.
I understand that a storyteller takes longer to weave the words that
finally, in the end, become a whole fabric and that often this is good.

From Kenmare, to Kenmare. From Ireland, to France, and Germany to
the United states and back around again we went. There were stories
of love, death, lies and atrocity. Somewhere in there I believe there
was even a bit of humor, but bless me if I can remember.

I am finished with Ben now. I don't care what happens to him.
I should admire Kate, but somehow, she leaves me cold. And may I
finish by saying that I am a fan of giraffes but really? Did
we need to meet one here? ( )
  mckait | Mar 14, 2011 |
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When matchmaker Kate Begley's husband, U.S. intelligence officer Charles Miller disappears, she enlists Ben MacCarthy'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.… (more)

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