The Guts by Roddy Doyle - review by Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee

Small Mercies

The Guts


Jonathan Cape 327pp £12.99

In 2004, Roddy Doyle was asked whether he’d ever consider writing a sequel to The Commitments. ‘I’ve been asked to,’ Doyle responded, ‘and it isn’t in any way a temptation … I think it would just be, from the first frame, overly sentimental.’

Well, it’s a fool who tries to hold a fiction writer to his promises. In The Guts, Jimmy Rabbitte is back. At 47, his job is ‘finding old bands’ and finding the people who’ll buy ‘their resurrected singles and albums’. His pet name for the enterprise is ‘’, but with a loving wife and four attentive kids, middle age seems to be running on with hardly a duff note played. There’s only one hitch: Jimmy has bowel cancer. 

The book begins with Jimmy chatting to his father about Facebook. It’s lightweight, pitch-perfect talk – a reminder of Doyle’s ear for the rhythms of speech and the absurdities of human interaction. After much back-and-forth, Jimmy tells his father about the cancer. Feelings are held in. But then there’s a

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