Paula Spencer begins on the eve of Paula's 48th birthday. She hasn't had a drink for four months and five days. Her youngest children, Jack and Leanne, are still living with her. They're grand kids, but she worries about Leanne.
Paula still works as a cleaner, but all the others doing the job now seem to come from Eastern Europe, and the checkout girls in the supermarket are Nigerian. You can get a cappuccino in the café, and her sister Carmel is thinking of buying a holiday home in Bulgaria. Paula's got four grandchildren now; two of them are called Marcus and Sapphire.
Reviewing The Woman Who Walked into Doors, Mary Gordon wrote: "It is the triumph of this novel that Mr Doyle, entirely without condescension, shows the inner life of this battered house-cleaner to be the same stuff as that of the heroes of the great novels of Europe." Her words hold true for this new novel. Paula Spencer is brave, tenacious, and very funny. The novel that bears her name is another triumph for Roddy Doyle.
To be honest, I think this is Roddy Doyle's best book so far, and that's saying something because he has written a fair chunk of good work in his time.
Paula Spencer became my favourite Doyle character after reading 'The woman who walked into doors' and I was a little worried that a) this new book wouldn't live up to the previous one, or b) listening to it as an audiobook would somehow take away from the relationship I had already built up with the character in my own head.
However, I needn't have worried - either about Doyle's genius or about Ger Ryan's narration. Doyle succeeded in bringing every hard and soft edge of Paula to light. His writing, and Ryan's narration, allowed me to feel the pain of Paula's guilt and loss, but also the pride and strength that have allowed her to become the woman depicted in this book.
I can't speak highly enough of it. Fantastic.
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