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Frank Delaney writes exquisitely of longing

Frank Delaney writes exquisitely of longing

"The Matchmaker of Kenmare" (Random House, $26), by Frank Delaney

February 7th, 2011 by SUMMER MOORE, Associated Press in News

Frank Delaney shows the romanticism in his roots by telling a moving tale of love, angst and Irish superstition during World War II in his new novel, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare."

Ben MacCarthy is searching for his wife, who has disappeared without a trace. A writer for the Irish Folklore Commission, Ben travels to Ireland to track and document stories and legends - and chasing rumors of his lost love.

One day, Ben is sent to the home of Kate Begley, who arranges marriages. She uses self-proclaimed "magic," which includes reading the palms of her potential clients.

The novel is primarily a story of longing, and Delaney uses his grasp of language to illustrate the feeling.

Delaney describes the scene as Kate, who lives in Kenmare in a house overlooking the ocean, tells the story of how her parents were lost at sea when she was very young.

"Sitting in the sunlight, with the same deadly sea beating down there, racing like a herd of dragons along the rocky shores and snarling up at us as though we might be their next meal, we leaned on our chairs toward each other and exchanged views of eternal seeking."

Ben decides to accompany Kate to France to work as a spy. He is so enamored with her that he blindly follows her every time she calls. Even though Ireland is technically neutral in the war, Ben and Kate are thrown into violent situations in a volatile continental Europe.

Although "The Matchmaker" is a sequel to Delaney's "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show," it reads like its own story in the form of a letter from Ben to his twins (he's never met them). Ben's tale is both an account of what happens to him and proof of how telling the story forces him to grow.

"Every story costs you something; as you tell it, you give it away," he says.

Delaney grabs the reader from the first paragraph with his comfortable and nostalgic style. His metaphors are so visual, readers can taste, smell and see the action. His words make us want to pack up and move to where "on a balmy summer night in the high northwest of Ireland, twilight lingers forever; the sun scarcely leaves the sky."