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The Commitments (The Barrytown Trilogy #1)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  9,629 ratings  ·  307 reviews
Barrytown, Dublin, has something to sing about. The Commitments are spreading the gospel of the soul. Ably managed by Jimmy Rabbitte, brilliantly coached by Joey 'The Lips' Fagan, their twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them by leaps and bounds from the parish hall to the steps of the studio door. But can The Commitments live up to their name?
Paperback, 144 pages
Published December 6th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1987)
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A short, sweet tale of the birth and short life of an Irish soul band, full of humor and exhilaration. It feels like that sense of delicious surprise at being able to skate on thin ice. Young Jimmy Rabbitte, unemployed resident of a fictional working class neighborhood of Dublin, Barrytown, gets the brilliant idea that Ireland needs sex machine music like James Brown’s. We get the pleasure of his imagination at work as he puts together his band one by one and works up a repertoire of songs.

Back in the day (I always wanted to use that in one of my reviews) my buddies and I from the old neighborhood had a dream. Besides wanting to be starting shortstops for our favorite baseball teams (Red Sox for me) we wanted to reach fame and fortune through music. There was only one hitch: none of us could sing, and none of us could play an instrument. Nevertheless, we moved forward with our dream and started penning lyrics to songs with no music…our muses were more than confused. For the most p ...more
I went into this book knowing nothing about it, not having seen the movie, certainly not having seen the musical and not being familiar with the Irish institution that is Roddy Doyle.

Initially I thought there was a mistake and I somehow obtained the screenplay for the film rather than the novel. Doyle shows a true bravado in his disregard for what we assume to constitute a novel. His narrative is composed almost entirely of dialogues and some diminished descriptions which are no more than stage
Paul Bryant
In the grim north side of Dublin Jimmy decides to put together a band to play soul music from the 60s. His mates think he's mental. They say, But that kind of stuff is sung by... black people. Ain't it? And we're just scummy white kids, ain't we? But Jimmy has a reply to that :

Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud.

Dean, Jimmy'
brilliant! though you end up thinking in an irish accent
This bracing, funny, honest, and charming first novel tracks the brief existence of The Commitments, a working-class Dublin band bent on bringing soul to the people. Fortunately for Outspan and Derek, who've decided to form And, And!, And, a syntho-pop cover band (as soon as they get the money to buy instruments, anyway), Jimmy Rabbite consents to be their manager. Jimmy's the sharpest industry observer in northern Dublin ("Jimmy had Relax before anyone had heard of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and ...more
Nancy Oakes
First of all, I've not yet seen the movie that was made from this book, but now I want to. If the movie is at all true to the book, I know I'm going to love it.

Set in working-class North Dublin, the novel begins with teens Outspan, Derek and Ray, who have formed a new band called And And And. Only in existence for three days, Outspan and Derek decide they need help with the band's direction and go to music-manager guru Jimmy Rabbitte, who"ate melody Maker and the NME every week and Hot Press eve
A classic. Now the Doyle is writing about middle-aged Jimmy Rabbitte in The Guts, it is essential to go back and remind ourselves of the young Jimmy. In the late 80's, Dubliners were still underemployed, and things were cheaper. They had to be. No one had any money! I have always loved this story of a Dublin soul band. I'd forgotten how short-lived this group was. But while they were together, they had a terrific time. Ireland and Dublin have changed dramatically in 25 years. Ireland boomed and ...more
I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to read 'The Commitments' (I haven't seen the film either), but I purchased the book and decided to read it having heard many good reports about its recently released sequel, 'The Guts'. Such a short book, but what a treat!

I'm sure the narrative is pretty familiar to most-it was to me, just through clips I'd seen of the movie / things I'd read over the years about the book-but I have to say that, in the short time it took me to read the book, I was freque
The Commitments is a small band formed in Dublin by a group of young and unemployed folks. Their one goal in life is to bring SOUL to Dublin. The biggest problem is the leading members really don't know that much about music history, so they hire a friend to manage them and help create the image they have for themselves.

There isn't a lot of story here. Quite simply it is about music, but deeper than that is the will to be more, to bring more to the table. Quick read, which was nice in that it wa
A quick little read; heavy on dialogue. Irish dialogue. Very thick and very fast. I loved the movie and wanted to read the book before I watched it again. I really liked the antics of Jimmy and the gang as they progressed from a group of wannabe musicians to small time fame in central Dublin. There's a great group dynamic going on behind the story; everyone's in love with the backup singers, everyone hates the lead singer, Joey The Lips Fagan keeps everyone on an even keel, and Jimmy tries to ke ...more
The cockney accent dialogue of working class Dublin is humorous once you figure it out. Do yourself a favor and view the 1991 classic film, The Commitments. Then download the CD from iTunes and sit back and enjoy the people’s sound.
Greatness is often ephemeral. Youth is fickle. It's such a brilliant story. I just love it...
The Commitments (1987) is Irish author Roddy Doyle's first published work. Set in late 1980s Dublin, it tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte and the rag-tag group of friends and musicians he recruits to form a band dedicated to bringing soul music to the city. The novella is as funny as the premise suggests. We begin when two teenage musicians, Outspan and Derek - unhappy with their current band's leadership - approach Jimmy - a hard-core music fan who always knows what's cool and what's not - for ...more
I remember a friend of mine, who I thought at the time wouldn't be inclined to contribute his opinion on certain matters, put forward a priceless piece of advice. His favorite book was determined by how many times it had made him laugh out loud. I took that to heart when reading this book, and all of Roddy Doyle's books. As much as I can recall, the Commitments had me laughing out loud more than any novel I've read before or since.
A critical aspect of a lot of art, music has the potential to es
I had this book begun and done before I even had a chance to mark it as "currently reading." It took me about 3 days, which is about 3 hours in normal non-baby-raising reading time. The majority of the book is dialogue, song lyrics, and rhythm licks (DUHH DUHH DUUUUHHH), so it moves pretty dang fast.

Anyway, the content ... since The Commitments is one of my favorite movies of all time, I expected to enjoy the book a lot, and I did, but I have to say, I think it may fall under that very rare cat
To be fair I may be the wrong audience to appreciate this book, maybe I need to be from Ireland or have been in a band with a bunch of people who didn't like eachother where only half of them cared about the music but it has become a matter of principle rather than enjoyment to finish this book. It has been the novel equivalent of sitting in a basement listening to a teenage band dink around, swear (admittedly all the eejits, jaysis and arses did make the setting come through loud and clear), ar ...more
Reading this first ever effort from Roddy Doyle (yes, I'm a fan!) I am struck by both its immaturity and its portents of what Doyle will bring to the reader over the next two decades. Skinning it back to its bones, The Commitments is a Garage Band romance - Dublin style! Basically, it's the story of a group of rag-tag musicians coming together to create an Irish soul band. ! It's strength is Doyle's ability to capture the essence of North Dublin through its own local dialogue/dialect and geograp ...more
La Stamberga dei Lettori
Siamo a Barrytown, quartiere (in realtà fittizio) del Northside dublinese. A noi italiani la differenza tra i quartieri a nord e a sud del fiume Liffey può sfuggire, ma esiste un’accesa rivalità tra gli abitanti della zona nord di Dublino, dove si trovano i quartieri più popolari, e quelli della zona sud, dove si trovano le case dei ceti più abbienti.
James “Jimmy” Rabbitte jr., autorità locale in ambito musicale, essendosi fatto una cultura investendo gran parte dei propri risparmi in dischi e r
So this was an interesting experience - I read the sequel to this, The Guts, having no idea that it was a sequel and having never heard of its prequel despite my deep affinity for Doyle. I LOVED Guts and found it tightly woven, enchanting, humorous and touching, though I did find myself wondering what it was about, exactly, and now that I know it was a follow up that all makes sense. What was surprising, however - and this might be the order in which I read the books - was how tepid I felt about ...more
A short and fast read, this book isn't even divided into chapters, daring you to read it in one go. The dialogue is heavy on accents, which isn't my thing, so it looses a star there. Also, I'm having a really hard time pegging the historical setting of the story, is it the 60's, the 80's? I should be able to tell the difference. An all right read, certainly not a great one.
This book had it's funny moments, but overall I felt it was a little flat. I struggled to keep track of which person played which instrument, which is maybe less an issue of the writing and more an issue of my interested level waning. The characters didn't really seem to change, but maybe that was the point. They were all just a bunch of naive, hot headed kids looking to have some fun.

I managed to read this short, fast-paced book in one day, which is affecting my rating a bit. If it had taken me
Charming, lovely first book of the Barrytown trilogy. Of course I read it after having seen the excellent film. In the book, Jimmy gets with Imelda instead of Natalie in the end; I'm glad the movie switched this.
Stacy Bearse
It's the 1960s, and a group of blue-collar Irish lads discover the raw allure of soul music produced by legendary rock-and-roll pioneers at studios in the American heartland. Armed with guitar, bass, piano, drums and sax - and guided by an entrepreneurial manager - the guys embark on a mission to bring rock-n-soul to the emerald isle. It's a charming story, complete with raging hormones and teenage angst. Doyle wrote the dialog in jargon common on the mean streets of Dublin, lending authenticity ...more
This is a perfect little gem of a novel, the story of a band that forms, gets popular, and implodes all in one smooth, beautiful rise and fall of humor and musical passion. The Commitments are a band dedicated to bringing soul to Ireland, but is such a thing possible? Is Ireland ready for soul? Or is the band just ready to fall in love with the sound of themselves making music, ready to be cheered on in pubs and courted by record companies? This novel is less than 200 pages, but the characters a ...more
I started reading Roddy Doyle novels at least 20 years ago, and from this POV I really can't remember if I read the novel before I saw the movie. I did, though, read a hell of a lot of Doyle and other Irish writers since then. Going back to the Commitments was both refreshing (what an incredible way to record music!! What incredible capture of dialect and dialogue!) and upsetting (Really? In 1992 we still threw around the N-word? And conversations about cultural appropriation have changed A LOT ...more
Derek Bridge
I come back to this, and the other books in the Barrytown Trilogy, every few years. And they are always a pleasure.

It's interesting to see that this, the most famous (the one whose film treatment is the best known of the three, and the one that is now a West End "smash") is actually the least satisfactory. None of the characters is strongly-drawn (whereas Jimmy Rabbitte Senior is colossal in the other two volumes). We have a tale (an enjoyable tale) of a band that comes together and falls apart.
If you know the movie, you know this book. If you liked the movie, you'll like this book. If you haven't seen the movie (which you should, the actors are brilliant and the music's so good), there's a great chance you'll love the movie if you: 1) are a music obsessed person, 2) have been in a band/ touring with a band/ are or were a groupie/ enjoy music concerts or festivals but you must absolutely 3) love the "raw" feeling of the music of the 60's. The chances you'll like this book are even bigg ...more
This is a nice short read for music enthusiasts. By music enthusiasts I really mean people starting a band. It got me really hyped about this coming year with Digging Up Virgins and all the shows we'll play and everything. It got me inspired to learn to play Sugar Pie Honey Bunch. And it's got me on a Motown kick.
However, it doesn't do much else. I'm going to just go ahead and say that it's not a conventional story. It just doesn't work with the typical plot map. It's like it's all exposition wo
This review also appears on the Court Street Literary Collective at

One of the finest compliments I can pay a book is to say that, while turning the pages, I sometimes forget I’m reading a book. Another excellent comment I can make on a novel is that I managed to read it in one sitting. Both of these statements, I’m happy to say, are true of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments. Not to give the impression that I forced myself to finish it, mind you. Honestly, I d
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Would-be Doyle Fan 5 37 Aug 16, 2012 07:20AM  
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Roddy Doyle (Irish: Ruaidhrí Ó Dúill) is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. Several of his books have been made into successful films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. He won the Booker Prize in 1993.

Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, Dublin. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University College, Dublin. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming
More about Roddy Doyle...

Other Books in the Series

The Barrytown Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Snapper (The Barrytown Trilogy, #2)
  • The Van (The Barrytown Trilogy, #3)
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha The Woman Who Walked Into Doors A Star Called Henry The Snapper (The Barrytown Trilogy, #2) The Van (The Barrytown Trilogy, #3)

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