Roddy Doyle

Author of the Month

Irish writer Roddy Doyle made his mark with the publication of the ‘Barrytown trilogy’ – The Commitments (1988), The Snapper (1990), and The Van (1991) – which presented difficult issues through his highly accessible writing. His work, which is characterized by rich humour and highly relatable references to popular culture – alongside his remarkable rendition of working-class Dublin slang – has reinvented the modern Irish novel as an authentic representation of the experiences of everyday Irish life.

Doyle’s first novel, The Commitments was made into a successful film by the Alan Parker, but it was Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha (1993), his most accomplished novel, that won a Booker Prize for the bleak portrait of marital breakdown witnessed through the sensitive and naïve eyes of the ten-year old protagonist Paddy.

As well as his novels for adults he has written a biography about Roy Keane called The Second Half, a book about his parents and several books for children.

If there is a heaven, Jane Austen is sitting in a small room with Mother Teresa and Princess Diana, listening to Duran Duran, forever. If there’s a hell, she’s standing.”
― Roddy Doyle

The Commitments
The Commitments are a band with a mission – bringing soul to Dublin. Led by Jimmy Rabitte, a man with ambition, coached by Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, an old man with a trumpet, protected by Mickah Wallace, owner of the most feared forehead in Barrytown.

The Snapper
This story introduces the Rabbitte family, a motley bunch of loveable ne’er-do-wells. When the older sister announces her pregnancy, the family are forced to rally round and discover the strangeness of intimacy.

The Van
The third instalment of the ‘Barrytown trilogy’, The Van depicts the hilarious yet poignant adventures of Bimbo. Upon being fired from his job at the bakery, Bimbo and his best mate go into business for themselves and purchase a chipper; but will the pressures of financial success sour their friendship forever?

Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha
It is 1968. Paddy Clarke is ten years old, breathless with discovery. He reads with a child’s voraciousness, collecting facts the way adults collect grey hairs and parking tickets.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
In one of his finest novels, Doyle tells the story of Paula Spencer, a working-class, alcoholic, battered woman in her 30s. From this bleak subject-matter, he creates a funny, tender, shocking and moving novel.

Bullfighting’ is Roddy Doyle’s eagerly anticipated second collection; a series of bittersweet tales about men and middle age, revealing a panorama of Ireland today.

Two Pints
Two men meet for a pint in a Dublin pub. They chew the fat, set the world to rights and take the piss. They talk of their wives, children, pets, football teams and about the Euro and mourn the deaths of Whitney Houston and Robin Gibb.

The Guts
Jimmy Rabbitte is back. The man who invented the Commitments back in the eighties is now 47, with a loving wife, four kids – and bowel cancer. Jimmy still loves his music, and he still loves to hustle – his new thing is finding old bands and then finding the people who loved them enough to pay money for their resurrected singles and albums.

Two For The Road
Two men meet for a pint, or three, in a Dublin pub. They chew the fat, set the world to rights and mourn friends gone: David Bowie, Prince, Princess Leia, and Young Frankenstein. Around them the world of Brexit, Trump, and referendums storm, but some things – good things – never change. Inspired by the last five years of news, Roddy Doyle’s ‘Two for the Road’ offers a strong brew of Roddy Doyle’s comic genius – to be downed in one riotous sitting, or savoured over, laugh after laugh.

Homelands – A Celebration of the British Isles

What will your adventure be? With our long-awaited freedom finally on the near horizon, and the opportunity to travel overseas still limited, there has never been a better time to explore and celebrate The British Isles.

With increasing awareness of the importance of nature and the benefit of being outside, many of us have made time to enjoy our natural environment. From rugged coastal regions, dramatic downs, rolling farmland, idyllic islands, wild waterways, picturesque seaside towns and magnificent landscapes, it cannot be denied that the British Isles offers something for everyone.

This selection of books has been collected under the heading of Homelands to celebrate our great British Isles through its varied landscapes and histories. We hope that this collection, which will be in some libraries and available on BorrowBox too, will inspire you to make your own voyage of discovery. Highlights of the collection include:

The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane
In this inspiring and bewitching book Macfarlane embarks on a series of journeys in search of the wildness that remains in Britain and Ireland. At once a wonder voyage, an adventure story and a work of natural history, this text also tells a story of friendship and loss, mixing history, memory and landscape in a strange evocation of wildness and its importance.

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
Nature holds the answers for Raynor and her husband Moth, who after walking 630 miles homeless along the Salt Path, found a home in the coastline. Life beyond the Salt Path awaits, but the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult – until an incredible gesture by someone who reads their story changes everything: a chance to breathe life back into a beautiful but neglected farmhouse in the Cornish hills – rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their new path. Along the way, Raynor and Moth learn more about the land that envelopes them, find friends both new and old, and embark on another windswept adventure when the opportunity arises.

Waterlog by Roger Deakin
Roger Deakin set out in 1996 to swim through the British Isles. The result a uniquely personal view of an island race and a people with a deep affinity for water. Swimming in the sea, rock pools, rivers and streams, tarns, lakes, lochs, ponds, lidos, swimming pools and spas, from fens, dykes, moats, aqueducts, waterfalls, flooded quarries, even canals, Deakin gains a fascinating perspective on modern Britain. Detained by water bailiffs in Winchester, intercepted in the Fowey estuary by coastguards, mistaken for a suicide on Camber sands, confronting the Corryvreckan whirlpool in the Hebrides, he discovers just how much of an outsider the native swimmer is to his landlocked, fully-dressed fellow citizens. Encompassing cultural history, autobiography, travel writing and natural history, Waterlog is a personal journey, a bold assertion of the native swimmer’s right to roam, and an unforgettable celebration of the magic of water.

The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange
After two decades exploring the Western coast and mountains of the British Isles, the historian and nature writer David Gange set out to travel the seaboard in the course of a year. This coastline spans just eight-hundred miles as the crow flies, but the complex folds of its firths and headlands stretch more than ten-thousand. Even those who circumnavigate Britain by kayak tend to follow the shortest route; the purpose of this journey was to discover these coastlines by seeking out the longest. Travelling by kayak, on foot and at the end of a rope, Gange encounters wildcats, basking sharks, and vast colonies of seabirds, as well as rich and diverse coastal communities.

The Homelands collections will tour the county, starting their journey in the following libraries: Andover, Basingstoke, Chandlers Ford, Fleet, Gosport, Petersfield, Totton and Winchester. You can also place reservations for any of the titles in the collection.

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

About the book

Rural Irish girl Ellie loves living in New York, working as a lady’s maid for a wealthy socialite. She tries to persuade her husband, John, to join her but he is embroiled in his affairs in Ireland, and caught up in the civil war. Nevertheless Ellie is extremely happy and fully embraces her sophisticated new life. When her father dies she must return home, but she intends to sort her affairs quickly and then return to her beloved America.

But once home her sense of duty kicks in and she decides, painfully, that she must stay to look after her mother and resume her marriage. Ellie is suddenly thrown into the simple, rural life she believed she had grown out of…

Reviewed by Perspectives

A light, easy read that didn’t do the subject matter justice. A missed opportunity to offer an in-depth study of the period. Not recommended for a reading group”

star rating **

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Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor

About the book

In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by injustice and natural disaster, the Star of the Sea sets sail for New York.
On board are hundreds of fleeing refugees. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Merridith and his family, an aspiring novelist, a maker of revolutionary ballads, all braving the Atlantic in search of a new home. Each is connected more deeply than they can possibly know. But a camouflaged killer is stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absolution.
The twenty-six day journey will see many lives end, others begin afresh. In a spellbinding story of tragedy and mercy, love and healing, the further the ship sails towards the Promised Land, the more her passengers seem moored to a past which will never let them go.

Reviewed by  Marchwood WI Reading Group:

An excellent read. A real insight into social history. All the characters were well drawn. If there was a criticism, maybe it was a bit too long.

Star rating: ****

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In the Forest by Edna O’Brien

About the book

IN THE FOREST, set in the west of Ireland, is the story of a young man who shoots dead three people in a forest glade. The young man, Mich O’Kane, is ‘not all there in the head’ as one character puts it. By puberty he is already committing petty crimes, ending up in borstal. By the time he is back home he has also served time in a British jail and is an institutionalised criminal. His sexual fantasies – revolving around women in the village – eventually centre on Eily, an artist and single mother, who lives with her son Maddie. One day Mich pounces, and orders Eily to drive them to the woods nearby.

Reviewed by Blackwater Valley U3A:

We did enjoy this book although we found it very black. The language was flowing and poetic even though the subject was difficult.

Star rating: ***

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Puckoon by Spike Milligan

About the book

It’s 1924 and the Boundary Commission is deciding on the new line between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. With much pushing and shoving, the border finds it’s way down the middle of Puckoon, dividing house from outhouse, man from wife, and pub chairs from bars. Something must be done!

Reviewed by Everton Reading Group:

50/50 split of liked and really enjoyed or conversely couldn’t get into the humour and Irish connections. ‘Bog’ standard laughter with some memorable passages such as the 2sq feet in the pub in opposite County. For those who like it, it stands the test of time. Best read aloud!

Star rating: **

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McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy

About the book

The number 1 Irish Best Seller. Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother’s homeland. In McCarthy’s Bar, his journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. Traveling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it,” he encounters McCarthy’s bars up and down the land, meeting fascinating people before pleading to be let out at four o’clock in the morning.

Reviewed by Bedhampton Reading Group:

It made us laugh – we compared it to other travel books we have read i.e. Into Siberia (much happier) and Bill Bryson and Tony Hawkes – they have a better reason for travelling than him. Those who have visited Ireland agreed that it is like that!! Some members found the book ‘too light’ for their taste.

Rating: ***

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Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey

About the book

Tragic, funny and utterly unsentimental, Christine Dwyer Hickey’s “Tatty” is a devastating, affecting journey into the mind of a child. With the brutal clarity and touching honesty of a child, “Tatty” tells the story of her alcoholic family. The result is a stunning portrait of a disintegrating family and the child lost within it.

Reviewed by  Goodworth Clatford WI Reading Group:

Sad, moody, believable, depressing. Would have liked to know more about the author – background? autobiography? Easy to read

Star rating: ***

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The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

About the book

Barrytown, Dublin, has something to sing about. The Commitments are spreading the gospel of the soul. Ably managed by Jimmy Rabbitte, brilliantly coached by Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, their twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them by leaps and bounds from the parish hall to the steps of the studio door. But can The Commitments live up to their name?
The bestselling book behind the long-running West End stage show.

Reviewed by Knackered Mums Reading Group:

We’re glad we read it, and now want to watch the film and see how it compares.

Star rating: ***

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No Bones by Anna Burns

About the book

Every single night and every single day Amelia goes upstairs to look at her treasure: a miniature plastic sheep, a Black Queen chess piece, a penny prayer for serenity, a tube of glitter – and thirty-seven black rubber bullets she’s collected ever since the British Army started firing them…

Reviewed by Whitchurch Reading Group:

Horrible! Wonderful! Compelling! Disturbing! Worthwhile! Mixed reaction from loved it to hate it. It made the Irish Troubles very real.

Star rating: * to ***

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