The Woman Who Walked Into Doors – Roddy Doyle

Happy New Year!!!! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

I have had a very busy Christmas and I have been moving myself back to England, sorting my car, etc, so I did neglect my blog a little….BUT I am back and whilst I was gone I started reading (and finished) The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle.

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This book is incredibly Irish! In the sense that it was written by an Irishman, and it is set in Ireland. It was published in 1996 but I am not quite sure when it is meant to be set, because anyone who is from Ireland, has lived in Ireland or who has visited Ireland, will know that a lot of things are still unchanged (the way houses are heated, etc) so for people who haven’t been to Ireland, it may sound like it is set back in the 1960s(ish) but to me it could be anytime.

I believe it was adapted into a mini-series for BBC and RTE in 1994 (which is Ireland’s version of BBC) which ran for 4 episodes. I will be watching this at some point to see if it stays true to the book.

The title of the book comes from an answer she gives her husband when he asks her how she got a bruise on her eye (which he did) and she says she “walked into a door”, as well as the repeated excuses she gives to the nurses and doctors in A&E.

I personally loved this book. I found that I really felt strong emotions for characters. For Paula (the battered wife), I felt sadness, hopelessness, sometimes anger and eventually relief. For Charlo (her husband) I felt hatred and anger. For her children? Well, I just felt sorry for them and scared for them at some points.

Basically this book is about a working class abused wife. It mixes up her memories from childhood along with memories from her marriage to what is currently happening in the present. The way is it written is so beautifully done, you can tell it is memories from an alcoholic woman who is in denial and then eventually admits the truth. I’m honestly not quite sure how to explain it….

It recounts her childhood where she remembers outings with her family and pleasant memories of her father BUT this is countered by one of her sisters remembering a violent, overbearing father rather than a protective, loving father.

She moves on to her memories of school. All of the boys who were “rides” (basically the ones she and her friends fancied) and even at one point recalling a time when she “wanked” a boy in her class off under the table in class.

She then goes on to meeting Charlo and how attractive he was, how she felt so special being with him, how he made her laugh and feel like the only girl in the world. This drastically changes when she becomes pregnant and for the first time he hits her for telling him to make his own “fucking” dinner. The night before she made dinner and when he came home he wasn’t hungry, so that night (heavily pregnant) she didn’t make dinner because she didn’t know if he would want any or not. Her denial is so obvious as she says she could see the concern on his face when he helped her up because he still loved her and it was her fault.

The violence from there escalates, she loses a baby, she has her arms broken, loses most of her teeth, her fingers are snapped she is thrown across rooms and burnt with cigarettes, etc. The violence is bad, but in the real world this really happens and I do think this could open the eyes of most people who have never had to deal with domestic violence.

The other scary observation is the lack of concern from the Doctors, nurses, Paula’s parents, friends (whom she loses), Guards and so on. She is so desperate for the right Doctor to just rescue her from Charlo. She can’t say anything when she is being examined because he is always with her. She just wants a Doctor or nurse to ask her what really happened, to point out that these injuries are not from “walking into a door” because “it was dark”, so that she can finally admit what is happening and have the help and support.

In the end she herself kicks Charlo out when she catches him looking at her eldest daughter in a certain way. She knows what is starting to happen and she suddenly flips, becomes a different woman, and he does actually become scared of her, because finally she is standing up to him (albeit with a heavy frying pan around the head several times). This just reiterates what cowards perpetrators of domestic violence are. They prey on the fear and weakness, once those things are gone they have nothing.

I really cannot express how much I loved this book. It is so real and powerful. The emotions are so raw. It is also a book that you really can picture as a real life situation with real life people.

I urge all of you to read this. It is written with a very Irish style (by that I mean the phrases and words used are Irish) and I think this is refreshing, adopting your way of life to a book is normal but very few writers adopt the soul of a country.

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Roddy Doyle

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