January 1932: Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood.
Interweaving a host of unforgettable creations—“King” Kelly, Venetia’s violent, Mephistophelean grandfather; Sarah Kelly, Venetia’s mysterious, amoral mother; and even a truth-telling ventriloquist’s dummy named Blarney—Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous decade.
“My wooing began in passion, was defined by violence and circumscribed by land; all these elements molded my soul.” So writes Charles O’Brien, the unforgettable hero of bestselling author Frank Delaney’s extraordinary novel—a sweeping epic of obsession, profound devotion, and compelling history involving a turbulent era that would shape modern Ireland.
Born into a respected Irish-Anglo family in 1860, Charles loves his native land and its long-suffering but irrepressible people. As a healer, he travels the countryside dispensing traditional cures while soaking up stories and legends of bygone times–and witnessing the painful, often violent birth of land-reform measures destined to lead to Irish independence.
At the age of forty, summoned to Paris to treat his dying countryman–the infamous Oscar Wilde–Charles experiences the fateful moment of his life. In a chance encounter with a beautiful and determined young Englishwoman, eighteen-year-old April Burke, he is instantly and passionately smitten–but callously rejected. Vowing to improve himself, Charles returns to Ireland, where he undertakes the preservation of the great and abandoned estate of Tipperary, in whose shadow he has lived his whole life–and which, he discovers, may belong to April and her father.
As Charles pursues his obsession, he writes the “History” of his own life and country. While doing so, he meets the great figures of the day, including Charles Parnell, William Butler Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw. And he also falls victim to less well-known characters–who prove far more dangerous. Tipperary also features a second “historian:” a present-day commentator, a retired and obscure history teacher who suddenly discovers that he has much at stake in the telling of Charles’s story.
In this gloriously absorbing and utterly satisfying novel, a man’ s passion for the woman he loves is twinned with his country’s emergence as a nation. With storytelling as sweeping and dramatic as the land itself, myth, fact, and fiction are all woven together with the power of the great nineteenth-century novelists. Tipperary once again proves Frank Delaney’s unrivaled mastery at bringing Irish history to life.
Praise for Tipperary
“The narrative moves swiftly and surely. . . . A sort of Irish Gone With the Wind, marked by sly humor, historical awareness and plenty of staying power.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Another meticulously researched journey…Delaney’s careful scholarship and compelling storytelling bring it uniquely alive. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred)
In the summer of 1922, Robert Shannon, a Marine chaplain and a young American hero of the Great War, lands in Ireland. He still suffers from shell shock, and his mentor hopes that a journey Robert had always wanted to make—to find his family roots along the banks of the River Shannon—will restore his equilibrium and his vocation. But there is more to the story: On his return from the war, Robert had witnessed startling corruption in the Archdiocese of Boston. He has been sent to Ireland to secure his silence—permanently. As Robert faces the dangers of a strife-torn Ireland roiling in civil war, the nation’s myths and people, its beliefs and traditions, unfurl healingly before him. And the River Shannon gives comfort to the young man who is inspired by the words of his mentor: “Find your soul and you’ll live.”
In the summer of 1943, as World War II rages on, Ben MacCarthy is haunted by the disappearance of his wife, the actress Venetia Kelly. Searching for purpose by collecting stories for the Irish Folklore Commission, he travels to a remote seaside cottage to profile the enigmatic Miss Kate Begley, the Matchmaker of Kenmare. Ben is immediately captivated by her, and a powerful friendship is forged. But when Charles Miller, a handsome American military intelligence officer, arrives on the scene, Miss Begley looks to make a match for herself. Miller needs a favor, but it will be dangerous. Under the cover of their neutrality as Irish citizens, Miss Begley and Ben travel to London and effectively operate as spies. As they are drawn more deeply and painfully into the conflict, both discover the perils of neutrality—in both love and war.
Steeped in colorful history, The Matchmaker of Kenmare is a lush and surprising novel, rich as myth, tense as a thriller, and, like all grand tales, harrowing, sometimes hilarious, and heartbreaking.
“Riveting . . . Readers will quickly warm to [Frank] Delaney’s vividly described Ireland of the 1950s, its fully realized inhabitants, and the dynamic political and personal relationships that make for a remarkable story.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“If we’re to live good lives, we have to tell ourselves our own story. In a good way.” So says Ben MacCarthy’s beloved mentor, and it is this fateful advice that will guide Ben through the tumultuous events of Ireland in 1956. The national mood is downtrodden; poverty, corruption, and an armed rebellion rattle the countryside; and although Ben wants no part of the insurrection, he unknowingly falls in with an IRA sympathizer. Yet despite his perilous circumstances, all he can think about is finding his former wife and true love, Venetia Kelly, who after many years has returned to Ireland with her brutish new husband, a popular stage performer. Determined not to lose Venetia again, Ben calls upon every bit of his passion and courage to win her back, while finally reconciling his violent past with his hopes for a bright future.
Brimming with fascinating Irish history, daring intrigue, and the drama of legendary love, The Last Storyteller is an unforgettable novel as richly textured and inspiring as Ireland itself.
“A colorful, leisurely tale, with dark moments as well as humor and grace.”—The Star-Ledger
“A magical tale [that] weaves in a jackpot of Irish myths.”—Bookreporter