Off the Shelf: Charlie Savage, by Roddy Doyle

Off the Shelf: Charlie Savage, by Roddy Doyle
Jonathan Cape Pub. ISBN 9781787331181 2019 202 PP
Review by Terry Kenneally

Roddy Doyle is best known as the author of The Commitments (1987), his debut novel that was made into the hit film, and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993), which won the Booker Prize when Doyle was 35. Charley Savage is a collection of his weekly columns for the Irish Independent in Doyle’s eponymously- title new book.

The book is written in colorful Dublin vernacular (“gobshite: and “bollix” abound pleasingly), the columns explore ageing, family and friendship. Charlie gets a tattoo of the cartoon character Sponge Bob Square Pants to please his grandson, reluctantly attends a spa with his wife, and falls in and out of friendship with his best pal The Secret Woman.

This is Roddy Doyle at his best. There is a similar comic style to those classic early Barrytown novels (The Commitments, The Van and Snapper), but this time it’s the life and thoughts of a sixty-year-old man in a changing world. Consider the following:

            “There are things that we give up on as we get older, and things that give up

            on us. Eyesight, hair, self-respect; they all walk out the door. Memory strolls out

            too, and it leaves the door wide open.”

Doyle’s stories are topical. Charlie dislikes Ireland’s government. On Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, he says: “Economically, Varadkar is a Tory, but I agree that he’s doing a good job in regard to the Brexit nightmare. I love the north and a return to the hard border would be hideous.

There are people in Westminster creating dangerous circumstances. It’s based on ignorance. Half of them don’t know what they’re talking about when they go on about the backstop.” (And that was written before Boris Johnson became Prime Minister).

Doyle’s writing is witty and insightful. Charlie Savage offers moments of humor swiftly chased up by sheer heartbreak. It has been shortlisted for the Bollinger Essayman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing in 2019. I loved this book, full of wit and laugh out loud moments, everyone needs a Charlie Savage in their life. I rate this a TOP SHELF read.

*Terrence J. Kenneally is an attorney and owner of the Kenneally Law Firm in Rocky River Ohio. He represents insureds and insurance companies in insurance defense litigation throughout the state of Ohio. He received his Masters from John Carroll University in Irish Studies and teaches Irish literature and history at Holy Name High School where he is also the President.


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