Smile: A Novel - Roddy Doyle

A powerful voice in Irish writing returns  with an evocative novel illustrating once again the misery, pain and ruined lives caused by the sexual abuse scandal prevalent within the Catholic Church from the 1950's. Victor Forde is now a lone single man who spends part of each day in Donnelly's public house. He makes the acquaintance of Fitzpatrick, who he instantly takes a dislike to. There is something strange and unwarranted about this individual, that wakes some very painful memories in the mind of Forde, and in particular the time he spent as a child within the care of the Christian Brothers.

 

What is astounding and memorable about "Smile" is the author's direct, compelling brutal and unforgivable  method of storytelling. This makes me want to revisit classics I read many years ago and in particular The Van and the wonderfully titled Paddy Clarke ha ha. It is so refreshing to read his simple style of prose that forms an instant connection with the reader, and makes him loathe and pity Forde in equal measures. ..." a man of my age going back to some wrinkled version of his childhood. Looking for the girls he'd fancied forty years before"...."I was so bored, so heavy with the physical weight of it, I could have cried"......"Do you want it? No, thanks, I said. It was nice talking to you she said. She died five months later."..."It was the last time I slept in my mother's house and it was the last time I went for pints with the lads. Two of them are dead. I miss them like I miss my father.".....

 

The conclusion of this story was never going to make pleasant reading, it was  unforeseen, sudden and yet an apt and fitting ending to a novel that will remain with my for many weeks and months. A monumental achievement and a welcome return to one of Ireland's most talented of writers. Many thanks to Random House uk and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.