James Gault reviews The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
Every feminist, male or female, should read this book; and those who read it when it first came out should read it again. While equal pay and opportunities are important, there is a darker and more compelling reason for society to actively defend woman’s rights, and Roddy Doyle’s 1996 novel depicts it graphically.
The theme of the book is domestic violence, and tells the story of Paula, a working class Dublin girl whose youthful romantic delusions are turned into a nightmare by an abusive husband. The author is rightly acclaimed for his accurate and engrossing evocations of ‘ordinary Irish people’, and this novel rightly received accolades for just this. But this is the least of its achievements.
In this story we have an authentic and heart-rending analysis of the social and psychological issues surrounding compulsive wife-beating. We see, and, more importantly, we feel all the nuances and complexities of this repulsive crime: the slow destruction of hope, the self-blame of the victim, the perpetrator’s arrogant belief that he owns his woman and can do what he likes with her, the insensitivity and indifference of those in authority. In short, the author displays a society organised to suppress women, and it’s not a remote or ancient society.
This book is not a political tract; it is an entertaining and well-written piece of fiction. It’s the quality of the writing that makes it such an important work. Read it if you are a supporter of women, but read it also if you have even the slightest tendency to male chauvinism. You’ll soon change your mind.
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