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The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle

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A moving and dignified story of a woman recalling her life after finally being free from the abusive husband who affected so much of her life.

May 2010 Guest Editor John Boyne on Roddy Doyle...

Watching Doyle’s ascent to both popular and critical acclaim during the 1990s was hugely influential on me as a young Dublin writer. His best books remain the two Paula Spencer novels – The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and Paula Spencer – which are masterclasses in dignity and strength of character.

If you like Roddy Doyle you might also like to read books by Donal Ryan, David Nobbs and Stephen Fry.


The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle

'My name is Paula Spencer. I am thirty-nine years old. It was my birthday last week. I was married for eighteen years. My husband died last year. He was shot by the Guards. He left me a year before that. I threw him out. His name was Charles Spencer; everyone called him Charlo.' The Woman Who Walked Into Doors is one of Roddy Doyle's finest achievement to date, the heart-rending story of a woman struggling to reclaim her dignity after a violent, abusive marriage and a worsening drink problem. Paula Spencer recalls her contented childhood, the audacity she learned as a teenager, the exhilaration of her romance with Charlo, and the marriage to him that left her powerless. Capturing both her vulnerability and her strength, Doyle gives Paula a voice that is real and unforgettable. Lean, sexy, funny and poignant, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors shows, yet again, that Roddy Doyle has an unparalleled gift for transforming ordinary life into great literature.

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Doyle followed the success of Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha, where he saw the world from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy, by placing himself in the position of a 39-year-old woman - and from the first page he is as convincing as he is original. The heroine is a Dublin cleaner, a woman trapped in a dead marriage, hopeless, battered by the man she loved for years, observed by her children in all her indignity - and yet throughout she is vital, funny, lovable, big as the lovely Molly Bloom in Ulysses, strong in her convictions - a fighter too, though not physically, she leaves her husband to use the fist, she has wit and pluck, and an eye for elegance. 'Walking into doors is the euphemism Paula Spencer used to conceal the atrocities she suffered at the hand of this violent husband, Charlo. Since throwing him out of the family home, she has struggled with her alcoholism, bringing up four children with virtually no money, and uncomfortable memories that remind her of why she married him in the first place. Now she finds Charlo has been shot dead during a failed robbery; her whole life needs an explanation (where did the 1980s go? Why did she put up with the abuse?). The answers she finds 'mocked my marriage, my love; they mocked my whole life'. Paula tries to wrestle free from the guilt that places her at the centre of the issue; she remembers one visit to a hospital: 'I was there because of my husband's temper, because I'd provoked him, because I didn't deserve him'. Yet somehow, this is not a depressing tale. Roddy Doyle writes her in the first person, so the story is direct and sharp. He slips under her skin and stays there all the way to the end. From page one, you know the spirit that moves this woman beyond everything else is optimism: optimism in love, in the future, in her children - and you also know that this woman, despite her poverty and apparent insignificance, is a very great heroine indeed. The book fairly cracks along with Doyle's characteristic poignancy and brutality, and is one of those that is over far too soon. Doyle takes you right inside Paula and her appalling mess of a life, without once making her an object of pity. Brilliant. (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle was born in Dublin in 1958. His first novel, The Commitments, was published to great acclaim in 1987 and was made into a very successful film in 1991. The Snapper was published in 1990 and has also been made into a film. His third novel, The Van, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was also made into a film. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha won the 1993 Booker Prize. His most recent novel is A Star Called Henry. He lives in Dublin.

Photo © Amelia Stein

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd January 1998


Roddy Doyle

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240 pages


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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