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The Woman Who Walked into Doors: A Novel Paperback – January 1, 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
Doyle's novel about a battered, working-class woman, PW wrote in a starred review, displays "a perception that is rare [and] a compassion that is scorching..
- a compassion that is scorching."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Roddy Doyle is an internationally bestselling writer. His first three novels—The Commitments, The Snapper, and the 1991 Booker Prize finalist The Van—are known as The Barrytown Trilogy. He is also the author of the novels Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993 Booker Prize winner), The Woman Who Walked into Doors, and A Star Called Henry, and a non-fiction book about his parents, Rory & Ita. Doyle has also written for the stage and the screen: the plays Brownbread, War, Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner, and The Woman Who Walked Into Doors; the film adaptations of The Commitments )as co-writer), The Snapper, and The Van; When Brendan Met Trudy (an original screenplay); the four-part television series Family for the BBC; and the television play Hell for Leather. Roddy Doyle has also written the children's books The Giggler Treatment, Rover Saves Christmas, and The Meanwhile Adventures and contributed to a variety of publications including The New Yorker magazine and several anthologies. He lives in Dublin.
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Paula had a rather dull childhood, made worse by being pigeonholed in secondary school as one of the dumb ones. She had been the first of her group to develop tits, and in school she had to spend inordinate energy preventing the boys, as well as the male teachers, from feeling her up. Her passport to glamour and excitement came when she saw Charlo Spencer at a dance: "He was with a gang but all by himself. His hands in his pockets with the thumbs hooked over the denim and a [butt] hanging from his mouth. It got me then and it gets me now: cigarettes are sexy -- they're worth the stench and the cancer. * * * I was sweating a bit. And I felt the sweat when I saw Charlo. This wasn't a crush -- this wasn't David Cassidy or David Essex over there -- it was sex. I wanted to go over there and bite him."
After a two-year courtship they married. Up to that point, life with Charlo was, for Paula, given her background, the fairy-tale life of a princess. But soon after marriage she became pregnant and one night, well into her pregnancy when she felt "ugly, fat and full of someone else's hairy body", Charlo hit her -- punched her square in the face. For the next seventeen years he continued to beat and batter her. "Broken nose. Loose teeth. Cracked ribs. Broken finger. Black eyes. I don't know how many; I once had two at the same time, one fading, the other new. Shoulders, elbows, knees, wrists. Stitches in my mouth. Stitches on my chin. A ruptured eardrum. Burns. * * * He dragged me around the house by my clothes and by my hair. He kicked me up and he kicked me down the stairs." When she needed medical attention, as was frequently the case, Charlo took her to the hospital and stayed with her while she was treated, the ever-solicitous husband. What happened? She had fallen down the stairs. Or she had walked into a door. Yet again.
Paula's harrowing story of those seventeen years of abuse is relegated to the last quarter of the novel. The first three quarters set the stage. Despite the many bleak aspects of her life, they are a joy to read because Paula is so irrepressible, constantly surprising and delighting you with her humor or her wisdom. That first part of the novel also contains the story of how Paula came to be a widow. To find out about that, and about how a year earlier she finally ousted Charlo from the house, you will have to read the novel. It will be an unforgettable experience.
There is nothing pretty about this story. What was surprising was that the author has been able to bring Paula to life on the page.
There are many reviews already available but I will say that it was extremely well written, poignant and compelling reading. I felt for the loss of Paula's hope and dreams, her denial of what was happening to her and her solace in alcohol, anything to anaesthetise the pain.....
emotionally and then physically abused by her spouse. She turns to alcohol in order to
deny the extreme horror of her situation. She appears to be a classic victim of learned
helplessness until he does something that forces her to act.
This is a sad and tragic book. One hopes throughout the book that she will have the
strength to leave her monster of a husband. Does she or doesn't she. Only reading the
book will give you the answer.
This book is written in the first person, and as an American the Irish vernacular was initially difficult for me, but Paula's inner dialogue is well written, and very enjoyable. I think I might have picked up a few Irish colloquialisms.
Kudos to Roddy Doyle! He has created a wonderful, likable, character in Paula Spencer.