Paula Spencer begins on the eve of Paula’s forty-eighth birthday. She hasn’t had a drink for four months and five days. Having outlived an abusive husband and father, Paula and her four children are now struggling to live their adult lives, with two of the kids balancing their own addictions. Knowing how close she always is to the edge, Paula rebuilds her life slowly, taking pride in the things she accomplishes, helped sometimes by the lists she makes to plan for the future.
As she goes about her daily routine working as a cleaning woman, and cooking for her two children at home, she re-establishes connections with her two sisters, her mother and grandchildren, expanding her world. She discovers the latest music, the Internet and text-messaging, treats herself to Italian coffees, and gradually ventures beyond her house, where she’s always felt most comfortable. As Paula thinks of herself, “She’s a new-old woman, learning how to live.”
Doyle has movingly depicted a woman, both strong and fragile, who is fighting back and finally equipped to be a mother to her children – but now that they’re mostly grown up, is it too late? Doyle’s fans and new readers alike will root for Paula to stay clean and find a little healing for herself and her children, amidst the threat that it may all go wrong.
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
This is one of the bad days.
She could feel it coming. From the minute she woke up. One of those days. It hasn’t let her down.
She’ll be forty-eight in a few weeks. She doesn’t...
1. a) ‘She copes. A lot of the time. Most of the time. She copes. And sometimes she doesn’t. Cope. At all.’ (p.1). Paula is a survivor. Do think the fact that sometimes she is ok and other times she isn’t makes her a more believable survivor than someone who is shown to be completely strong?...
“Reading Paula Spencer is pure, undiluted pleasure, and it’s not necessary to have read the first novel to thoroughly enjoy this one.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Paula Spencer is written with an immediacy that makes us feel like we’ve crawled inside her head. . . . The remarkable intimacy achieved using third-person narrative is partly what’s enthralling here, but it’s also the humanity, wit and stubborn resilience. . . . Doyle’s new novel is an utterly convincing, worthy sequel.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“A tale of ultimate personal struggle, and told superbly. . . . [The book’s] sparseness serves to ratchet up its intensity, compressing every episode and emotion. . . . Paula Spencer is neither gloomy nor glib. It is not patronizing or falsely melodramatic. Instead it brims with compassion and acuity and Mr. Doyle shines a light on a supposedly ordinary life, tenderly illuminating its extraordinary contours.”
–The Wall Street Journal
“A nakedly personal tale . . . this is a book about a brave woman living a life of work and family. This is as real as realism gets.” –The Atlanta Journal Constitution
“Its protagonist is a phoenix still half-covered in ash, and that itself suggests a story of both flight and atonement. Doyle’s dialogue can be masterfully swift and precise.”
‘Captivating new novel…It’s like watching a real person getting a white-knuckled grasp on day to day life….You want to cheer Paula on…As ever, Doyle’s dialogue is pithy, his mordant comedy direct and delicious. Another of the sheer pleasures of Doyle’s writing is his lightness of touch, the way he keeps out of his characters’ paths. We’re allowed to get Paula, her story and what it means, without anything underlined, emboldened or signposted. No aids for the thinking-impaired here, just pure story and a superbly drawn heroine.’
‘an amazingly cheerful story, full of real resilience…she is so utterly likeable that we cheer for her, and every tiny victory is a triumph for us as well…Roddy Doyle has done the impossible- he has made Paula Spencer even more unforgettable the second time round’
–Maeve Binchy in The Times
‘Doyle…writes like a recording machine of the heart and voice. [Paula Spencer] is suffused with love and sex, violence and innocence …Doyle’s dialogue…is the core of the genius of his writing and of the happily politically incorrect imagination he uses to choose each perfectly pitched word…[a] marvellous novel’
‘Paula’s story is set against the backdrop of the changing face of Ireland, skilfully interweaving Paula’s personal tale with major events, both national and global…the writing enables the reader to become totally immersed in every aspect of Paula’s daily life.’
–The Daily Express
‘Doyle has created a little masterwork, a gem of persuasive realism’
–Scotland on Sunday
“Doyle’s trademark, staccato style…encapsulates here the tension which attends Paula’s every step…The honed, humane artistry of Paula Spencer exceeds the …plaudits of “demotic fluency” that have greeted…Doyle’s work; like its eponymous protagonist, this brave, mature novel demands to be taken seriously”
–Times Literary Supplement
‘a vintage performance that will leave his readers, new and old, wondering if they aren’t just a little wiser and a little better for having read this novel. This is one of the things we might hope for from art, and this is a novel which adds to one’s sense of the possibilities of betterment.’
–Waterstones Books Quarterly
‘A masterclass in how to produce gripping dramatic moments with the fewest possible words. This is a book with huge emotional impact.’
‘Paula is a triumphantly original character, and her gently anarchic sense of humour, her ruthless honesty and the bursting sense of fun that permeates the book scotch any hint of sentimentalism. Doyle constructs his set-pieces and orders the narrative with a craft so unobtrusively elegant and clever that it demands a second reading. This is a splendid piece of work.’’
–The Independent on Sunday
‘this is a magnificent novel…not once does Doyle offer any sentimental cop-out or wallow in bleakness…It’s a disciplined piece of writing, full of humour and immense empathy — and what more can you ask than that?’
‘A painful, funny, humane novel: beautifully written, addictively readable and so confident’
‘a magnificent achievement…Moments of catharsis are to be found in the almost imperceptible shifts of understanding…It celebrates that among the clod hoppers there are amazons’
‘a warm-hearted look at one woman’s will to survive’
‘Delivered in punchy, almost punch-drunk, first-person prose shot through with dark comic wit, Doyle’s novel is sympathetic without being sentimental, and its portrait of survival, coupled with our need to reach out to each other, feels universal’
‘every detail seems perfectly chosen’
‘Doyle’s style is cinematic and accessible…a complex, funny story’
‘A blisteringly realistic and wry-humoured view of a woman struggling to keep her life together and make her family closer’
‘the story of a survivor. Harrowing, moving and emotional’
‘an intoxicating sequel…a phenomenally rewarding read’
‘Doyle’s characteristic warmth shines through…[he] tells this tale of redemption with insight and respect.’
Praise for The Woman Who Walked into Doors:
“[This novel] honours not the female experience in the abstract, but the experience of this one woman, Paula Spencer; it examines it with tenderness, but with fearless clearsightedness. And it’s funny in places too.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“A tour-de-force of voice.”
–The Gazette (Montreal)
From the Hardcover edition.