When we first met Paula Spencer – in The Woman Who Walked into Doors – she was thirty-nine, recently widowed, an alcoholic struggling to hold her family together. Paula Spencer begins on the eve of Paula’s forty-eighth birthday. She hasn’t had a drink for four months and five days. Her youngest children, Jack and Leanne, are still living with her. They’re grand kids, but she worries about Leanne. Paula still works as a cleaner, but all the others doing the job now seem to come from Eastern Europe, and the checkout girls in the supermarket are Nigerian. You can get a cappuccino in the cafe, and her sister Carmel is thinking of buying a holiday home in Bulgaria. Paula’s got four grandchildren now; two of them are called Marcus and Sapphire. Reviewing The Woman Who Walked into Doors, Mary Gordon wrote: ‘It is the triumph of this novel that Mr Doyle – entirely without condescension – shows the inner life of this battered house-cleaner to be the same stuff as that of the heroes of the great novels of Europe.’ Her words hold true for this novel. Paula Spencer is brave, tenacious and very funny. The novel that bears her name is another triumph for Roddy Doyle.
It’s 1924, and New York is the centre of the universe. Henry Smart, on the run from Dublin, falls on his feet. He is a handsome man with a sandwich board, behind which he stashes hooch for the speakeasies of the Lower East Side. He catches the attention of the mobsters who run the district and soon there are eyes on his back and men in the shadows. It is time to leave, for another America…
Chicago is wild and new, and newest of all is the music, furious, wild, happy music played by a man with a trumpet and bleeding lips called Louis Armstrong. His music is everywhere, coming from every open door, every phonograph. But Armstrong is a prisoner of his colour; there are places a black man cannot go, things he cannot do. Armstrong needs a man, a white man, and the man he chooses is Henry Smart.
Born in the Dublin slums of 1901, his father a one-legged whorehouse bouncer and settler of scores, Henry Smart has to grow up fast. By the time he can walk he’s out robbing and begging, often cold and always hungry, but a prince of the streets. By Easter Monday, 1916, he’s fourteen years old and already six-foot-two, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army. A year later he’s ready to die for Ireland again, a rebel, a Fenian and a killer. With his father’s wooden leg as his weapon, Henry becomes a Republican legend – one of Michael Collins’ boys, a cop killer, an assassin on a stolen bike.
Danny Murphy is going to meet his brother, Jimmy. They haven’t seen each other in over twenty years. On the way to the meeting, Danny remembers
the good times and the bad times, the fun and the fights – and the one big row that drove them apart. Will the fight again or will
they become the friends they used to be? Danny doesn’t know.
Not just for Christmas is a book in the Open Door series published by New Island which sets out to show that books and reading can be for everyone. Each year they commission authors to write short books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. They are the same as mainstream books in every respect but are simply shorter and easier to tackle for adults who are less confident in their reading.
‘My name is Paula Spencer. I am thirty-nine years old. It was my birthday last week. I was married for eighteen years. My husband died last year. He was shot by the Guards. He left me a year before that. I threw him out. His name was Charles Spencer; everyone called him Charlo.’
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors is one of Roddy Doyle’s finest achievements, the heart-rending story of a woman struggling to reclaim her dignity after a violent, abusive marriage and a worsening drink problem. Paula Spencer recalls her contented childhood, the audacity she learned as a teenager, the exhilaration of her romance with Charlo, and the marriage to him that left her powerless. Capturing both her vulnerability and her strength, Doyle gives Paula a voice that is real and unforgettable. Lean, sexy, funny and poignant, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors shows, yet again, that Roddy Doyle has an unparalleled gift for transforming ordinary life into great literature.
Welcome to the world of ten-year-old Paddy Clarke, growing up in Barrytown, north Dublin. From fun and adventure on the streets, boredom in the classroom to increasing isolation at home, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is the story of a boy who sees everything but understands less and less. The book won the Booker Prize in 1993.
Together in one volume, this book contains Roddy Doyle’s trilogy about the Rabbitte family of Barrytown, north Dublin. The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van, which was shortlisted for the 1991 Booker Prize.
Jimmy Rabbitte is unemployed and rapidly running out of money. His best friend Bimbo has been made redundant at the company where he has worked for many years. The two old friends are out of luck and out of options. That is, until Bimbo finds a dilapidated ‘chipper van’ and the pair decide to go into business. The Van is a tender tale of male friendship, swimming in grease and stained with ketchup.
When Sharon Rabbitte the older sister announces her pregnancy, the family is forced to rally together and discover the strangeness of intimacy. But the question remains: which friend of the family is the father of Sharon’s child?
Barrytown, Dublin, has something to sing about. The Commitments are spreading the gospel of the soul. Ably managed by Jimmy Rabitte, brilliantly coached by Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, their twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them from the parish hall to immortality on vinyl. But can The Commitments live up to their name?