Colin O'Grady's Reviews > Paula Spencer

Paula Spencer by Roddy Doyle
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's review
Mar 30, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: novels

Having just finished Paula Spencer, it's only natural to compare it back to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. While I think the earlier book is superior in terms of its artistry--perhaps simply because the second book is more of the same--I enjoyed reading this one more. The tension in the first book comes from an obvious place: Paula's struggle with her alcoholism and her abusive marriage. In this book, Doyle gives us a newly sober Paula fifteen years later and sets up a different tension. Now, instead of hoping against hope that she somehow pulls herself out of her dead-end life, we get to root for Paula as she tries to get through each day and each moment without falling back into drink.

Once again, Doyle blew me away with how authentically he creates Paula's voice. I'll go out on a limb and say that I've never come across another male writer who constructed a female identity as well as Doyle has with Paula. We get to see her anxieties as a mother, as a sister, and as a single woman; we also get to see how every once of these was and is still affected by her alcoholism. Because the entire narration comes from inside Paula's head, all of her fears and insecurities are laid bare. The fact that Doyle makes her so vulnerable to us is the biggest reason that she is so easy to connect to as a character. This is especially important because the book has no real running narrative; Paula is the story.

Ultimately, I liked The Woman Who Walked Into Doors more as a book, but it was in this book that I really came to love Paula herself. If you've got an inclination to read one, you really should read them both.
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Reading Progress

March 30, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 10, 2008 – Shelved as: novels
June 10, 2008 – Finished Reading

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