Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle

Generally, I have a pretty happy life. A wonderful family, a great job, lots of friends, so not much really comes to my attention which I abhor. However, there are a few things. Cockroaches are one. I have been known to cross the street rather than share the largest pavement with one of these vermin. Lima beans, Brussel sprouts, and cooked spinach top my most detested food list. But one thing really bothers me, because I cannot understand how it occurs or how it is allowed to continue to recur. That is abuse. I include, of course, abuse of children, the abuse of animals, but one of the most disturbing examples in this category is the abuse of women. I also find it difficult to understand how woman can put up with such behavior after even a single transgression. After reading Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, I now have a smidgen of understanding this terrible, terrible behavior.

Roddy Doyle won the Man Booker Prize in 1993 for the hilarious Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha, Ha. Since then, I have collected most of his novels, because of my fondness for Irish fiction. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors is anything but hilarious.

It starts out all full of flowers, birds, rainbows, and Leprechauns, and the poverty and hard times afflicting Ireland. Then it takes a sinister turn, when Charlo punches his wife, Paula, and knocks her to the ground.
Gradually, Doyle reveals the true nature of Paula’s relationship with her husband. As the novel progresses, Paula remembers more and more of the 17-year long ordeal he inflicted on her. Numerous times, she thinks, “I love him. He loves me. He can’t help it. He’ll stop if I only behave.” Charlo threw that first punch because he asked for a cup of tea, and she responded, “Make your own feckin’ cuppa tea!” Later she imagines if she had simply made that cup of tea, he would never have hit her and the abuse would never have begun. In short she continually blames herself for the abuse.

I will not even begin to list the examples of the abuse Charlo inflicted on his wife. Frankly, it was a bit difficult to read – it literally turned my stomach. On the other hand, I could not stop reading it mesmerized me that much.

--Chiron, 3/1/13

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