New Year’s Reading Resolutions #8
After the death of her estranged husband, Paula Spencer tries to adapt to a life in which Charlo is gone for good, and struggles to stay off the bottle (at least until the kids have gone to bed). Along the way she slowly reveals the desperate act the brought about his demise. She also travels, through her memories: first her childhood, then meeting Charlo, their courtship and marriage, and the descent of that marriage into her alcoholism and his violence, right up to the one thing that finally made her literally kick him out of the house.
Despite its potentially dreary subject-matter, I loved this book. The characterisation is amazing; the reader is put right inside Paula’s head, with all the lies and excuses and self-blame of a battered woman. It could all have been horribly depressing, but Paula’s determination to do the best she can for her children provides the needed bit of light and hope. The book also gives a vivid picture of growing up and living in working-class Dublin, though some of the references to contemporary tv shows and music were lost on me.
This is a brilliant portrait, and I will definitely be reading more by Roddy Doyle in future.