The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle
Genre: General Fiction, Adult
Publishing Info: Vintage. 5th May 1997
Star Rating: 4/5
Summary: “This is the heart-rending story of a woman struggling to reclaim her dignity after a violent, abusive marriage and a worsening drink problem. Paula Spencer recalls her contented childhood, the audacity she learned as a teenager, the exhilaration of her romance with Charlo, and the marriage to him that left her powerless. Capturing both her vulnerability and her strength, Doyle gives Paula a voice that is real and unforgettable.”
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors is a book that I was required to read for my English Literature course and at first I was sceptical. It takes time to get used to Doyle’s style and the jump in time is at first confusing but something that you barely notice after a few chapters. My experience of the book may be different to one reading the novel for enjoyment, as in class I looked in more detail than an average reader would. Through my reading, I saw a story that has great meaning, and a character which develops and a style that is unique and captivating.
The peculiar title is very descriptive of the novel as a whole, and the realisation of its meaning only really comes in the latter chapters, but makes you think about the meaning even more so because of this.
The fact that the novel was written by a man is truly stunning, as Doyle so convincingly tells Paula’s tale, as a woman’s perspective, despite having no inside knowledge of the workings of a woman’s mind. The style of writing itself truly reflects Paula, and the first person narrative allows the reader to really connect with her. At times you feel frustrated with her, other times you pity her, and other times you scrutinise and are disgusted by her behaviour and choices. The way Doyle writes the novel leads you into Paula’s story gently, gradually revealing more and more about her, until you really feel happy for her, and sad for her to.
Reading this novel requires maturity on the part of the reader, and so I am glad that I did not study it in high school as there surely would have been immaturity. The ‘mature content’ is used sparingly but effectively and is not overwhelming, though at times makes you feel uncomfortable and shocked (as I believe was the intention of the author) as it gives you a greater sense of her unfortunate experiences (something that would be understood better if you read the book). However these moments are not described in mass detail and don’t take over from the rest of the book.
The topics the book covers are approached by Doyle in a very effective manner. Domestic and sexual abuse and alcoholism are real issues and he presents them in a realistic way, and gives the reader a sense of what it is really like to experience these things. It may be hard for someone to associate with someone experiencing something they have never experienced themselves, but Doyle shows these topics in a way that is sensitive yet truthful.
Reading this you may notice that I have not mentioned any bad points about the book, yet I have given it four out of five stars. I enjoyed reading the novel and acknowledge the wonderful and unique writing style that really makes the book what it is. However, I do not feel I can give it the full five stars, and I’m not sure how to explain why. For me, it doesn’t feel like five stars, but that does not mean it is not an amazing and recommendable read. There are many ups and downs and it is a very emotional novel at times (thankfully I managed not to cry while reading the novel in class but I may have been less restrained had I been reading at home). Rarely have I felt such a connection with a character, something Doyle has really achieved to the highest standard possible. So I would recommend you read this book as it truly is an inspiring read.