July 06, 2020
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Of Wounds

Another powerful character

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Of Wounds
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors:
By Roddy Doyle
Minerva/IBH Rs 185; Pages: 226
MICHAEL Ignatieff's Asya. Patrick McCabe's 'butcher boy'. Roddy Doyle's Paula Spencer. If one were to shortlist powerful central characters in contemporary literature, they can't be ignored. Passionate and volatile, clamorous and individualistic, each of these characters is a creative triumph for the writer whose significance can be overlooked by none.

Roddy Doyle has written several extraordinary novels before. The Commitments, his first novel, was made into a film by Alan Parker. The Snapper, another of his literary masterpieces, was a memorable portrait of the Rabbitte family marked by black Celtic humour—besides hangovers and dirty dishes. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, which won the Booker Prize in 1993, is one of the most distinctive depictions of childhood in modern times.

In his new work, Doyle has created his most powerful protagonist ever. For Paula Spencer, a battered housewife, very little in life is a fond memory. Though she looks upon the home of her parents as a "happy home", it is clear from Doyle's treatment of her childhood that happiness has been the proverbial occasional episode.

What's worse, as Paula might have said, is "Me Now". Having fallen in love with Charlo, she marries him and starts a life marked by unceasing turbulence. Doyle is detached, almost pitilessly harsh, when he makes Paula narrate her husband's cruel methods: "Here goes. Broken Nose. Loose Teeth. Cracked ribs. Broken finger. Black eyes... Stiches in my mouth. Stiches on my chin. A ruptured eardrum. Burns. Cigarettes on my arms and legs.... He killed parts of me. He killed most of me. He killed all of me." Through the raw energy of his effortless prose, Doyle explores her tortured soul, setting forth the trauma of an insignificant life. Culminating in unlikely aggression from Paula who seemed destined to wither in a sad marriage. The reader is taken aback, but then Doyle is writing about the world of a gritty Dubliner.

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