Paula Spencer: A Novel by Roddy Doyle - review by Matt Thorne

Matt Thorne

Drying Out

Paula Spencer: A Novel


Jonathan Cape 277pp £16.99

Roddy Doyle’s last two novels, A Star Called Henry (1999) and Oh, Play That Thing (2004) were part of an entertaining, if somewhat ramshackle, sequence entitled The Last Roundup. For the moment at least, that sequence is on hold, as Doyle instead returns to an earlier novel, 1996’s highly acclaimed The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. Written at the height of his fame, after winning the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha (1993) and several successful film adaptations of his work, including Alan Parker’s The Commitments, it was regarded at the time as the best of his novels. The novel followed the adolescence and young adulthood of Paula O’Leary, an alcoholic house-cleaner trying to survive in a Dublin suburb after her marriage to Charles (Charlo) Spencer, a violent criminal who impressed her by eating chips out of her knickers before subjecting her to endless physical abuse. 

For this sequel, in which Doyle picks up Paula’s story nine years later, he has switched from first person to third. It’s possible that this change may be connected with Doyle’s controversial attack on James Joyce in 2004. The Los Angeles Times suggested that Paula’s voice owed something to Molly

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