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