Monday, January 15, 2018

Smile by Roddy Doyle

I'm really not sure I understood this book.  I thought I did, but when I got to the last few pages it turned all of my assumptions upside down and now I just don't know...

I obviously won't give away the twist so you can decide for yourselves if you understand the book...but the basic story is as follows.  Victor is a middle aged writer who finds himself alone for the first time in years and moves into a new apartment in Dublin.  Rather than sit and stare at the walls he forces himself to go to a local pub and make it his "regular".  One night while drinking alone he runs into Fitzpatrick - a man who apparently went to the Christian Brothers school with him, but who he cannot remember.

Running into Fitzpatrick brings back some painful memories for Victor and the book moves seamlessly back and forth from the present to Victor's time at school (when his father died and where he was sexually assaulted).  There are also flashbacks to his early career where he made a bit of a name for himself as a journalist and radio guest willing to tackle unpopular topics like birth control and abortion and to his marriage to Rachel who he describes as much more beautiful, sexy, personable and successful than he is.

In the present day Victor also tries to become "one of the guys" with a group at the pub and to exclude Fitzpatrick without much success.  There he also flirts with some of the middle aged women.

This is another story that deals with the dark side of the Catholic Church's power in Ireland.  And the personal stories are interesting.  It is just the last chapter that threw me off...

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