Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle (1997,242 pages)

The Irish Quarter

In Fox, Swallow, Scarecrow by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne we read about the upper crust of Dublin society.   The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle is about their cleaning lady.  

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle is a really good novel.  It is told in the first person by Paula Spencer.   We first meet her at age 39, one year a widow with four kids and a very bad drinking habit.   She married at 18 to a man who abused her terribly.   It is a deeply done portrayal of a woman who blames herself for the horrible abuse she suffers  at the hands of her husband.   Paula is telling the story via an internal monologue and she flashes back and forth in time.   This is a very intense story of the life of Paula.   Doyle does a brilliant job of bringing her totally to life for us.  It is also a stark portrait of a culture that traps women in abusive relationships and teaches them to see their husband's abuse as their fault.  

There is really nothing out of the ordinary about Paula.   She loves her kids, has girl friends, and loves her husband and admires his macho good looks.   The culture also traps men in the role of thugs who need to prove their manhood through violence and heavy drinking.  The things that happen in the novel are not meant to shock us, there are plenty of TV shows that depict much worse.  It is the marvelous many layered portrait of Paula that makes this novel so great.  It is also a story of class stratification in Ireland.   A doctor takes a look at her and dismisses her as a drinker.  Children are judged by the shoes they wear.   Paula is not really bitter about her life, she just accepts it as normal.  Her husband is not just a monster but a multi- faceted person in a way more trapped than Paula.   I took no pleasure in seeing his terrible fate.  She cleans the houses of rich people but she does not really mind.   

Why is the novel called The Woman Who Walked Into Doors?   It is in part because when her friends would see her with a black eye or busted lip or see her teeth gone she would tell them she had walked into a door.   But it is also about a woman with real courage to keep going on with her life.

There is profane language in the book.  

I will, I hope, very soon read Doyle's followup book, Paula Spencer, which takes us eight years ahead in her life.   I am looking forward to catching up with Paula.   

Official Author Bio 

Roddy Doyle is the author of nine novels, a collection of stories, and Rory & Ita, a memoir of his parents. He has written five books for children and has contributed to a variety of publications including The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Metro Eireann and several anthologies. He won the Booker Prize in 1993, for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
Roddy has written for the stage and his plays include Brownbread and Guess Who’s Coming For The Dinner. He co-adapted with Joe O’Byrne his novel The Woman who Walked into Doors and he co-wrote with Bisi Adigun a new version of The Playboy of the Western World.
He also wrote the screenplays for The Snapper, The Van, Family, When Brendan Met Trudy and he co-wrote the screenplay for The Commitments.
He lives and works in Dublin

Mel u


Buried In Print said...

I had forgotten that he wrote another novel to continue this story; I'm looking forward to reading this pair myself and appreciate the nudge in their direction.

Suko said...

Very sensitive review. This sounds like an intense book.