The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
This is one of the best books ever written, in any language. In terms of craft and mastery of the written word, this is the apex for me, and I’m still waiting to come across a book as well-written (I was 19 when I read it; I’m now nearly 36). Roddy Doyle is a man who can make words smash through walls with an aggressive yet charming attitude that chops you up and leaves you with more scars than a chopping board, but leaves you thirsty for more. He can be as brutal with humour as he can with melachony.
I read this book having read the Barrytown triology (The Commitments, The Van and the Nipper) which are funny yet deal with social issues in working-class North Dublin. All three books were made into films, all of which do the books justice (especially the famous Commitments). I then read Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha which saw a big change in Roddy Doyle, writing about domestic violence from a child’s perspective and wiped humour of the page and replaced it with sad reality. It won Roddy The Booker Prize in 1993.
This ultimately led Roddy Doyle on to his next work of art, which goes by the title of this blog post. Roddy Doyle literally becomes Paula Spencer, a woman battling alcoholism who has suffered domestic violence at the hands of her husband; the man she loves. She recounts the great times, as well as the violence, the love for her children, her struggles to earn money and depression and alcohol, and it concludes with the disappearence of her husband. It touches on her bittersweet love and anger for that man, social issues and striving to create a better future for her kids.
Yes, this book is hardly a barrel of laughs, and I am someone who likes to balance sadness my reading and writing with a joke or two. But I am/was willing to forgive this book for not including this form of entertainment because of just how well it is written and the emotion it evokes. As stated above, I was 19 when I read it and it had me sobbing like a fool, but it has also inspired me to become a writer, write about social issues, constantly narrate in first person and arise my love of Irish literature. This book also feels me with an insecurity that I may never be as good as this book, not even close. Excuse my arrogance, but most books I feel are tangible (although I most prove it) to reach that level, and many I believe I can far surpass (Louise Mensch, for example. If she can have her turd published, seriously, so can a demented chimp). But The Woman Who Walked into Doors is untouchable. Pure brillance. An inspiration as well as a creative block.
The book was made into a television series, which was apparently criticised for its poor representation of Eire and domestic violence. I can’t say I’ve seen it, but I can say for sure that I didn’t link domestic violence with Ireland as such. Paula Spencer could have been from anywhere. Ignore any of that type of criticism linked to the book. I have found that many books about domestic violence are very stark and leaves me a little numb, not knowing what to say or think. This book inspires me to act. It’s that powerful. I am unsure if this is in some way autobiographical, but Doyle pinned the topic. But who cares if it is fictional or not, it is personal and brilliant.
I have read most of Roddy’s other work, and I love it all, especially the Henry Star triology, and a Greyhound of a Girl, which I’ve written about before on my blog. I still need to read Paula Spencer, the sequel to this.
Please read The Woman Who Walked into Doors, whether you be a writer It’s a masterpiece.