Roddy Doyle

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 157

In addition to his novels, for which he is best known, Roddy Doyle wrote several highly successful plays, including Brownbread (pr. 1987), War (pr., pb. 1989), and The Woman Who Walked into Doors (pr. 2003), which is based on his 1996 novel. Family (1994), a four-part television play, was highly controversial for its treatment of domestic abuse. While the subject of the abusive husband and father was by no means new in Irish literature, the play’s widespread distribution through television provoked public debate over the representation of the working-class Irish family.

Doyle also wrote many short stories, including the collection The Deportees, and Other Stories (2008), and he wrote several books for children and teenage readers, including Not Just for Christmas (1999), The Giggler Treatment (2000), Rover Saves Christmas (2001), The Meanwhile Adventures (2004), and Wilderness (2007). He also contributed to the collaborative novels Finbar’s Hotel (1999, with others) and Yeats Is Dead! (2001, with others). In 2002, he published an oral history-memoir about his parents, Rory and Ita.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 193

Roddy Doyle’s earlier novels are recognized for their unique and original representation of contemporary working-class family life in suburban Dublin. The novels that comprise the Barrytown trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van; all three published later as The Barrytown Trilogy) are celebrated for their honest, realistic portrayal of family dynamics and socioeconomic conditions as an antidote to the often romanticized depictions of life in earlier Irish novels. Perhaps as a result of this unique focus, the Barrytown trilogy has enjoyed a rare combination of critical acclaim and popular commercial success. The Van, the most serious of the three novels, was nominated for the Booker Prize, which is awarded annually to the best novel in English from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. All three novels of the Barrytown trilogy have been made into major motion pictures.

Doyle’s next novel, Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha, went on to win the Booker Prize in 1993. With its innovative narrative technique and disturbingly honest portrayal of childhood at the brink of adolescence, Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha is widely acknowledged to be Doyle’s masterpiece. In 1998, Doyle was awarded an honorary doctorate from Dublin City University.

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In Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper, after Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr., reads the books concerning pregnancy that his daughter, Sharon, has been taking out of the public library, he develops a new understanding of, and appreciation for, the female body in general and his daughter’s condition in particular. How does this father-daughter relationship improve in some ways, yet decline in other ways, during the course of Sharon’s pregnancy?

Consider the possible meanings for these colorful adjectives and adverbs that the denizens of Barrytown use: “deadly,” “locked,” “rapid,” and “Mickah stitched Deco a loaf.”

With the popularity of the band U2 and the continuing development of new types of synthesized rock music in the mid-to late 1980’s, how believable is Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr.’s choice of the anachronistic simplicity of Motown music and Detroit soul of the 1960’s as the musical focus for a band of working-class north-side Dubliners in early adulthood?

What degree of help can Paddy Clarke expect to obtain from the traditional sources of stability and direction: parental will and control, the Catholic Church, grammar school authorities and rules, and even childhood friends?


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Donoghue, Denis. “Another Country.” The New York Review of Books, February 3, 1994. Essay and review of Paddy Clarke, ha-ha-ha, with brief discussions of Doyle’s earlier novels. Donoghue, one of Ireland’s foremost literary figures, assesses Doyle’s place in modern Irish fiction.

Hand, Derek. “Opening a Door on a Voice.” The Irish Literary Supplement , Fall, 1996. Review focuses on Doyle’s maturing voice...

(This entire section contains 182 words.)

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as a writer.

Kiberd, Declan. “Darling of the Brits. Not.” The Irish Literary Supplement, Spring, 1994. Kiberd examines the controversy surrounding the awarding of the 1993 Booker Prize to Doyle for Paddy Clarke, ha-ha-ha, dismissing claims that Doyle condescends to his characters or promotes a “professional” Irishness for an English reading audience.

Pearce, Sandy Manoogian, and David Krause. “Did Roddy Earn His Star? Ta! Nil!” The Irish Literary Supplement, Spring, 2001. Two contrasting views of Doyle’s treatment of the Easter Rising in A Star Called Henry.

White, Caramine. Reading Roddy Doyle. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2001. A comprehensive analysis of Doyle’s novels through A Star Called Henry, with an interview with Doyle in an appendix and an extensive secondary bibliography.


Critical Essays