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The Commitments (The Barrytown Trilogy #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  11,733 Ratings  ·  389 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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Nov 30, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015

Have you got Soul? If yes, The World's Hardest Working Band is looking for you. Contact J. Rabbitte, 118, Chestnut Ave., Dublin 21. Rednecks and southsiders need not apply.

I don't think I ever recommended before seeing a movie before reading the book it was based on, but in the case of Roddy Doyle's debut novel I believe this order will enhance the experience. You see, this is a musical novel, and it's done in a combination of dialogue and song lyrics, with minimal stage directions, no descrip
Feb 08, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, fiction, music, ireland
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.

Glenn Sumi
Sep 05, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it
Shelves: guardian-1000
I was going to attempt to write this review in the working class Dublin slang that Roddy Doyle’s colourful characters use, but, ya know, Jaysis, I’d come o’ looking like a fuckin’ eejit.

I’m one of the few people on the planet who’s never seen the Alan Parker movie, and when I was in London last fall, I noticed there was even a long-running stage version of it. But I guess through cultural osmosis I knew what the book was about: the making (and abrupt unmaking) of a north Dublin soul band.

It’s r
Jan 25, 2011 TK421 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
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
Oct 30, 2013 Kinga rated it liked it
Shelves: random
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
Oct 12, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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'
Dec 17, 2008 Inge rated it really liked it
brilliant! though you end up thinking in an irish accent
Mar 06, 2008 Howard rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 04, 2014 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2014 Allan rated it it was amazing
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
Garlan ✌
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 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
May 25, 2014 Hapzydeco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 28, 2008 Jason rated it it was amazing
Greatness is often ephemeral. Youth is fickle. It's such a brilliant story. I just love it...
Kevin Macdonald
Mar 12, 2017 Kevin Macdonald rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle is about a young irish man from Dublin forming a band and trying to bring a unique sound and soul to Dublin that the region has lacked.
This is a really fun read! The characters and dialogue are full of life and charming. The dynamic of the band and the conflict/tensions between the band members is brought to life in an endearing way. Awful bastards like Deco, reserved charming artists like Dean, tantalizing beauties like Imelda, and wise and experienced soul-filled
Apr 15, 2015 Hobart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
An expanded version of this appears on The Irresponsible Reader.


Will yeh please put your workin' class hands together for your heroes. The Saviours o' Soul, The Hardest Workin' Band in the World, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes The Commitments.
This is a tough one for me to talk about -- long time fan, read it a dozen or so times, it's all I can do to not turn total fan-boy and just gush. eh, I might not try too hard.

It's the late 80's and three young Dubliners (from the poorest part of Dublin) have form
Apr 05, 2011 Rose rated it really liked 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
May 08, 2016 Jarkko rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland, reviewed
What a fresh change to the books I've been reading lately. The Commitments is a story told almost only through dialogue in Dublin slang, kind of like a play, but at the same time more like a novel. It tells the funny, straightforward, and honest story of a short-lived Dublin band consisting of teenagers with bigger-than-life egos whose bravadoes don't fool anyone - except maybe the other teenagers. The band is nannied by a balding middle-aged man who, according to himself, has performed with Jam ...more
Apr 22, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2009 Andria rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2014 Bee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2013 Anne rated it liked it
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
Jul 26, 2015 Blue rated it really liked it
A very short and funny story about a group of blue collar guys, mostly in their late teens, who form a soul music band. The characters are colorful and the language is very Dublin (I imagine...) In a seemingly short span of time and pages, Doyle manages to pack it in with politics (gender roles, socioeconomics, racial issues...) and personal relations that have the complex entanglement of a small community. There is a cynical undertone, especially about class and gender differences, which is nev ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Marco rated it did not like it
The Commitments was my first 2016 read and it (obviously, due to my rating) was not a pleasant one. I really didn't find anything appealing about this book: not the storyline, not the characters and certainly not the writing. There wasn't anything about it that entertained me and it's funny given that I love music.
I had to read this book for college and I honestly can't understand why our professor made us read it. Maybe I will when we discuss it at college but, in this case ,I honestly don't t
Oct 28, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it
This warmly amusing short novel centers around Jimmy Rabbitte, a working class Dubliner who puts together and then manages a soul band, The Commitments, through their brief rise and fall. Made up of several of Jimmy's musically inclined friends plus a professional trumpeter and a boorish but extremely talented singer, the band gets a few successful gigs around Dublin before completely blowing up just as they are about to land a deal to record their first single.
Although Doyle's writing is a bit
Nov 21, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Commitments is one of my favorite films of all time and now that I've finally read the source material, I have to say that they did an excellent job translating the page to the screen.

The writing style is unique and really puts you into the world of the Hardest Working Band in the World. To put it simply, he writes with Soul.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Barrytown Trilogy.
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.
Mar 19, 2015 Maggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think a lot of the slang was over my head. Still, an excellent read. I picked it up to take on a weekend trip and decided to read just a bit of the beginning to make sure it would be interesting enough. Now it's Friday and I've finished it and I don't have anything to read for my weekend away. Poor me. I know there is a sequel and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
Aug 27, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it
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.
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Would-be Doyle Fan 5 39 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)

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“Contact J. Rabbitte, 118, Chestnut Ave., Dublin 21. Rednecks and southsiders need not apply.” 1 likes
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