Off the Shelf: Love, by Roddy Doyle
Viking Publishing ISBN 9781984880451 327 pp 2020. Review by Terry Kenneally
For any of this columns readers who have read other books by Roddy Doyle (seventeen other books of fiction) this is Doyle in his element. A book set in a pub(s) in the city where he lives and has written about countless times: Dublin.
Love is about pub crawling at its best- and worst. This writer quickly lost count of how many pints of Guinness were consumed or for that matter how many times the F- word was spoken.
The book is about the friendship of the narrator, Davey, and his lifelong drinking buddy, Joe. Davey has returned to Dublin to visit his dying father, leaving his wife, Faye, behind in England. Joe has recently left his wife, Trish, for Jessica, whom both men coveted when they were young.
The book contains both hilarity and seriousness as the two bar hop for ten hours in a single day. They reminisce about the paths their lives have taken and question each other about choices they have made.
Davey is surprised to learn that Joe has left Trish for Jessica, a woman he had not seen for about thirty years. Was he going through a mid-life crisis? Davey opens up about his father, who is dying in a nursing home in Dublin. He talks about his relationship with Faye, who his father did not want him to marry.
The two men go from being drunk to sobering up, to getting drunk again. Among or within their many words, the question is, do these two guys love each other? “Love” is in the very title.
At one-point Davey speculates that the two men don’t even like each other, that their companionship is the stuff of pub crawling and too many pints. In the end however, as Davey takes a taxi to see his father, who is in hospice, Joe accompanies him and offers words to console him in his grief.
Written almost entirely in dialogue, the very bawdy banter between the two men keeps the reader engaged even as they become more inebriated and incoherent. It would be interesting to see Doyle utilize his other talent, as a playwright and turn the book into a play. This is a TOP SHELF read.
*Terrence Kenneally is an attorney and owner of Terrence J Kenneally and Associates law firm in Rocky River, Ohio. He earned his Masters Degree in Irish Studies at John Carroll University.