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The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (Paula Spencer #1)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  6,079 ratings  ·  390 reviews
From the Booker Prize-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha comes a heartrending and beautifully written novel of a woman emerging from an abusive marriage. "A mixture of spirit and grief . . . a painful and beautiful story, a tale where the sadness and despair are redeemed because they are never denied".--San Francisco Chronicle.
Paperback, Large Print, 226 pages
Published April 19th 1999 by Thorndike Press (first published 1996)
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Mar 26, 2008 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
I love this author. He is raw with emotion. i love this passage:
"Everything made you on thing or the other. It tired you out sometimes. I remember spending ages exhausted and upset. It was nice knowing that boys wanted you then you couldn't want them back. If you smiled at more than one you were a slut; if you didn't smile at all you were a tight bitch. If you smiled at the wrong boy you were back to being a slut and you might get a hiding from his girlfriend, and she'd be a slut for pulling yo
I have given The Speech at least a hundred times. At least. The setting, the words, and sadly the result are essentially the same.

There is bustle all about. But I find the quietest room available. It’s me. And Her. And a cop or a counselor.

It’s not always the same HER, of course. But some are repeaters. Those ones have heard The Speech before, but they act as if they haven’t.

She’s been beaten. A little or a lot. Enough to call the cops. And now here we are, three to seven days later. She wants

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle.

Roddy Doyle is a wonderful writer. Normally his books are fast reads, he writes is an easy going flowing way. His books contain a certain amount of humour but that is because he writes "slice of life" stories. His characters are real, the stories are real and real life (or so I've been told) contains a certain amount of humour.

The Woman Who walked Into Doors possesses many of these ingredients but there is a shadow over the book. It is a love story
I picked this one up from a display at the library. I had skimmed a few pages and the writing style caught my eye (he uses punctuation and italics to visually illustrate dialog and flashbacks). I think the author did a great job telling the sadly-classic story of the abused woman, how that situation came to be and the culture in which the situation flourished, how she finally found the strength to kick her husband out of the house and keep on living. I liked the way he was able to explore how su ...more
Donna McCaul Thibodeau
I'm not sure that I really liked this book but it definitely deserved a four star review. Roddy Doyle manages to write a book about an abused woman from her point of view and he nails it. Amazing, really. Searingly honest, it tells the story of Paula Spencer and her day to day life married to the abusive Charlo. I read this years ago and thought I'd never go back to it as it's just so sad but he wrote a sequel and I wanted to read it so I read this one again. One of Mr. Doyle's better efforts.
i need to be honest. i will forget this book in 6 months. i enjoyed it, it was touching and raw. but it will vanish like most of the quick british/irish reads i've been enjoying lately, i.e. william trevor, patrick mccabe, patrick mcgrath. if these were romance novels, or anne rivers sheldon beach reads, then that would be expected. but since they are 'contemporary classics,' shouldn't they stick to the ribs longer? just because the subject is 'serious,' it doesn't mean that they aren't fluff of ...more
I decided to re-read this before reading the sequel Paula Spencer. I had forgotten just how good this book is, just how well Doyle does a female protagonist. The book is painful and sad and unflinching in it's descriptions of marital abuse and alcoholism but as always, Doyle adds in warmth and humor to make it all hurt less.

After my re-read I'm not sure that I want to read the sequel. I don't want to ruin the image in my head with a new story that might not be as good. Plus on the jacket it say
Apr 08, 2007 Darryl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers and survivors
I'm off to Ireland in a month on a working vacation. Wanted to read some contemporay literature from the region and found this book of Doyle's. I liked it. I do work in theodicy (the problem of evil) and trauma theory, and so am always seeking after such at the level of somatic description. In this case, I found it in the consummate craft of Doyle's characterization of Paula. Doyle has a remarkable gift of habitation. Paula is a model of sustained, air-tight, character emanicipation and density. ...more
Lyn Elliott
Feb 18, 2015 Lyn Elliott rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lyn by: Book club
Shelves: fiction, women, ireland
I came to this book reluctantly. Another book club choice I hadn't made; didn't want to read about domestic violence in general or an abused woman in particular.

But Roddy Doyle hooked me from the unexpected start, 'I was told by a Guard who came to the door. He wasn't one I'd seen before, one of the usual ones....I knew before he spoke. It clicked inside me when I opened the door. (For years opening that door scared the life out of me. I hated it; it terrified me)'.

And straight away we are into
One of my major goals in the past few years has been to read more books by women, about women. I grew up reading books by men that purported to be for general audiences, but that all too often completely whiffed on the portrayal of women's interior lives (with "great" novels and "classic" authors either completely avoiding the issue, or relying heavily on tropes and stereotypes). Female characters written by women, on the other hand, typically ring truer, even when the character's life experienc ...more
Nov 02, 2008 Drgibson63 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any adult
Recommended to Drgibson63 by: Friend
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A very sad and depressing book. The story of Paula Spencer, old before her time, her battle with alcoholism and her life as a beaten and abused wife.

There is nothing pretty about this story. What was surprising was that the author has been able to bring Paula to life on the page.

There are many reviews already available but I will say that it was extremely well written, poignant and compelling reading. I felt for the loss of Paula's hope and dreams, her denial of what was happening to her and her
A tough read, at times gruesome and depressing. Not the typical Roddy Doyle novel. As a woman you can follow the thread...this could happen to any of us if we just make enough excuses and remained silent. We may fool ourselves that it would not be us...but domestic abuse occurs all the time at all levels of society. Paula's "walking into doors" rings sadly true for so many, even the best and the brightest. Doyle bring his signature wit to Paula's reclaiming of her life. One finds oneself, as a r ...more
Christian Schwoerke
This novel was a quick two-gulp read, as I “listened” to Paula Spencer nee O’Leary tell how she became a beaten wife and how she managed, somehow, to escape. Roddy Doyle has done a splendid job of creating speech that can be heard in one’s mind, and he makes Paula’s false starts, repetitions, digressions, profanities, and recollected conversations work together to produce what seems an honest, long series of confessions and confidences to herself, a friend, and a social worker/psychiatrist.

The woman who walked into doors - Paula Spencer, who was married for 18 years to Charlo Spencer, who she threw out and who killed a woman and who was shot by the Guards... Paula loves Charlo and doesn't. In the book Paula looks back at her past. We find out the truth about the relationship between her and Charlo little by little.

Roddy Doyle is an expert on creating sympathetic characters. Paula too is sympathetic, even thou she is an alcoholic and a woman with a lot of problems, a woman who has
“—God--; I’m sorry—" (45). **What a use of the semi-colon!
“They laughed at girls fighting even though they were scared; girls fought to maim and kill. Girls didn’t box…Boys pretended; girls didn’t. Boys pretended that girls couldn’t fight and everybody believed them. I was a great fighter. Nobody cared” (49).
“I wouldn’t have minded if he had pulled me behind a wall. But he didn’t. He respected me. He’d do that to me later” (53).
“Fellas were like easy crosswords; you knew the answers before you f
First, I'll admit that I am currently on page 79 of 226. If I had to rate my desire to keep reading from one to ten, ten being the most compelled to go on, I'd have to say that I'm about at -57.

Next, let me get this out of the way. I'm no prude, and I occasionally enjoy cursing like a sailor. But even I was shocked by Mr. Doyle's overuse of the words f* and c&*#. So much so, in fact, that I can't bring myself to retype the words because I'm so over-exposed to them. The volume of cursing was
Roddy Doyle - The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. “Broken nose. Loose teeth. Cracked ribs. Broken finger. Black eyes. I don’t know how many; I once had two at the same time, one fading, the other new. Shoulders, elbows, knees, wrists. Stitches in my mouth. Stitches on my chin. A ruptured eardrum. Burns. Cigarettes on my arms and legs. Thumped me, kicked me, pushed me, burned me. He butted me with his head. He held me still and butted me; I couldn’t believe it. He dragged me around the house by my c ...more
Very vibrant rendering of the interior landscape of a working class woman in Dublin in the 90s. From the perspective of age 39, Paula tells her current story, working on a poverty income as a cleaning woman, raising three children, and recovering from the death of her estranged husband, while constantly reflecting on memories that chart her progression from childhood. With much empathy and humor, Doyle does an outstanding job of portraying how she taps the well of energies, budding sexuality, an ...more
Anita Dalton
Doyle understands that life might have a moment wherein a paralyzed person is suddenly capable of action, but that a moment of clarity does not a changed life make. Doyle shows the arc of Paula’s life as she gradually loses more and more innocence, slowly becomes more and more broken. This novel, better than any novel I have read in recent memory, tells the story of how men defined the world of women, from their actions to their words, and how hard it is to overcome such intrusive beginnings.

Emilia P
This was a damn good book.
Maybe "good" isn't the right word for it, but, well, Roddy D. was spot-on at getting a regular woman's voice to come through, filled with the uncompartmentalized joy, memory, despair, need, and hope that come with a hard life.

The first-person narrative flashes between the past -- a not altogether unpleasant youth, and a pretty dismal but relieved present wherein Paula Spencer has kicked her husband out of the house, only to find, a year later, that he's killed a woman
Hilary G
Ex Bookworm group review:

I know absolutely nothing about women in abusive relationships and I don't think Roddy Doyle does either. Not only do I find his attempt to portray a battered wife unconvincing, I also find his motives questionable. What on earth would make a man want to do that? I didn't sense any sort of crusade. Though he made Paula Spencer human, likeable and intelligent (with apologies to our teachers, what a condemnation of the education system she is), there was a total lack of em
Ian Wood
Sep 28, 2007 Ian Wood rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to see the dark side of Barrtown
Shelves: roddy-doyle
The Barrytown trilogy and ‘Paddy Clark, Ha, Ha, Ha’ were the greatest feel good comedies to come out of Ireland and ‘The Van’ and ‘Paddy Clark, Ha, Ha, Ha’ were respectively and justifiably nominated for and awarded the Booker Prize. So the question was where next? Roddy didn’t leave Barrytown for his next project but showed us it’s seedier underbelly in the dark and harrowing TV show ‘Family’. This introduced us to the Spencer family with its domestic violence and abuse. Each episode focussed o ...more
I picked this up because I read an interview where J.K. Rowling cited this as one of her favorites.

Depressing only begins to touch the nature of this book! It chronicles the story of how a marriage can go horribly wrong, and how a woman can feel trapped with a houseful of kids, an abusive husband, and a problem with alcohol.

I found it remarkable that this novel tells about domestic abuse from a woman's point of view--but written by a man. Doyle slowly unwinds the main character's past 20 years
Abigail Hillinger
It was interesting to read about domestic violence from a woman's point of view...written by a man. The first part of the book felt significantly different from the second part--the tone, the voice, the narrative itself. One part raised the questions and shuffled the puzzle pieces around so they wouldn't quite connect for the reader, and the second brought the reader directly into this woman's psyche as her husband is literally beating her soul out of her. Certain segments were brutal and almost ...more
I think Roddy Doyle is a fantastic author - I have read a lot of his books and what I find most amazing about his work is that none of it is alike. Okay, each book takes place in Ireland, but the stories are so different from one another, and I have even found his style of writing to change from book-to-book. In this book, you enter the mind of a woman in her forties. She is an admitted alcoholic who was married to an abusive husband. The book begins when a police officer visits her at her house ...more
Valeria Sosa
"Mi nombre es Paula Spencer. Tengo treinta y nueve años. La semana pasada fue mi cumpleaños. Soy viuda. Estuve casada durante dieciocho años. Mi marido murió el año pasado... Lo mató la polícia. Hacía un año me había dejado. Yo lo eché de la casa. Su nombre era Charlo Spencer; todo el mundo lo llamaba Charlo." Ese fragmento de la novela puede resumir su contenido pero es lo sucedido en medio lo importante, aunque no existe un medio, no totalmente. Sus memorias se convierten en fragmentos doloros ...more
I enjoyed the voice and personality of Paula Spencer, the protagonist, but it was painful and frustrating to witness the abuse she endured from her husband. It was clearly explained why she didn't leave (her fears, financial dependence, nowhere to go, her reputation, the threats to her life and her children from the husband)....still, how could anyone survive what she survived, and take the repeated abuse? When she finally acted, it was all the more amazing.
WOW! This is what I'm talking about. A fabulous book - so well written and engaging, so incredibly moving - amazing that a man was so insightful in portrating this female protagonist, trapped in a terrible marriage and by all of her self recrimninations. If you can stomach the details of abuse late in the book then it is well worth the anguish, as this book is artful and perceptive.
Spousal abuse

This is a story of a woman's abuse (sexually, physically and emotionally) by her husband - and most surprising, to me at least - it is written by a man.

Author Roddy Doyle captures the voice of Irish wife and mother Paula O'Leary Spencer so very well and squeezes every last bit of angst from the tale of this woman's ordeal at the hands of the husband she loved.

The story wanders about - from Paula's childhood to her teen years to her courtship by Charlo Spencer and her marriage. And i
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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

Paula Spencer (2 books)
  • Paula Spencer
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha The Commitments A Star Called Henry The Snapper (The Barrytown Trilogy, #2) The Van (The Barrytown Trilogy, #3)

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“I remember I wanted to get away; I wanted to run. I couldn't stand any more. But I didn't want to run. I wanted everything to be perfect; everything was going to be great - I just had to be careful. I was responsible for it all. The clouds coming, I was dragging them towards us; my thoughts were doing it. I was ruining everything. It was up to me. I could control the whole day. All I had to do was make sure that I made no stupid mistakes. Don't walk on the cracks. Don't look at the clouds. It's up to you.” 5 likes
“I swooned the first time I saw Charlo. I actually did. I didn't faint or fall on the floor but my legs went rubbery on me and I giggled. I suddenly knew that I had lungs because they were empty and collapsing.” 5 likes
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