REVIEW: “The Woman Who Walked into Doors” by Roddy Doyle

The Woman Who Walked into Doors

Roddy Doyle
Penguin, 1997

CHALLENGE(S): Social Justice Challenge

Finished 15 April 2010

It took me a long time to finish this book, even though it’s only around 200 pages long, and there’s a good reason for it. It is not the sort of novel that you read for entertainment or enjoyment – it’s the sort of thing you read because you really want to know what it’s like to live with domestic violence.

The main story is about Paula Spencer, who grew up with an abusive father and married an abusive husband. We follow her as she meets Charlo, falls in love with him, and as their relationship gradually falls apart we feel every blow. And we experience Paula’s guilt and triumph as she finally gets the strength to kick him out and move on – sort of.

It was, I think, not what I would call a good book in the usual sense. It was well written, but not in a lyrical way: I have frequently described it to others as like crawling over glass because it’s so brutal, honest, unflinching and absolutely one of the most painful things I’ve ever read. I have seldom been so involved with a character’s emotions, so the author has to be doing something right. At the same time, the stylistic choices (e.g. the use of dashes instead of speech marks) and the unrelenting sadness of it all made it hard for me to read much at a time, and even harder for me to come back and persist with my reading.

Overall, I think it’s worth three stars. It’s not brilliant, but anything that can make you truly experience the character’s inner life in that manner deserves praise, and as a book on domestic violence it is invaluable for opening people’s eyes. Just not one I’d recommend if you want a light, enjoyable read!


  1. I have heard of this book, but did not realize what it was about until your review. Now the title make a ton of sense.

    I will be doing a triple book review in a single post with some links on Domestic Violence. May I include a link for your review as well?

      • black sheep
      • April 16th, 2010

      Sure, I’d be more than happy for you to 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  1. May 20th, 2010

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