Smile

Publisher: Knopf Canada
From the author of the Booker Prize–winning Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, a bold, haunting novel about the uncertainty of memory and how we contend with the past.

Just moved into a new apartment, alone for the first time in years, Victor Forde goes every evening to Donnelly’s for a pint, a slow one. One evening his drink is interrupted. A man in shorts and a pink shirt comes over and sits down. He seems to know Victor’s name and to remember him from secondary school. His name is Fitzpatrick.

Victor dislikes him on sight, dislikes, too, the memories that Fitzpatrick stirs up of five years being taught by the Christian Brothers. He prompts other memories—of Rachel, Victor's beautiful wife who became a celebrity, and of Victor’s own small claim to fame, as the man who would say the unsayable on the radio. But it’s the memories of school, and of one particular Brother, that Victor cannot control and which eventually threaten to destroy his sanity.

Smile has all the features for which Roddy Doyle has become famous: the razor-sharp dialogue, the humor, the superb evocation of adolescence, but this is a novel unlike any he has written before. When you finish the last page you will have been challenged to reevaluate everything you think you remember so clearly.

READ AN EXCERPT

—Victor?
    I looked up when I heard when I heard my name but I couldn’t see a thing. I was sitting near the open door and the light coming through was a solid sheet between me and whoever had spoken. My eyes were watering a bit – they did that. I often felt that they were melting slowly in...
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PRAISE FOR

"Doyle's writing is flawless; while much of the novel is told in staccato dialogue, he's still gifted at crafting meticulous and beautiful sentences.... Smile is a novel that's as original as it is brutal, and as painful as it is necessary. Doyle asks us not just to consider the ravages of post-traumatic stress, but to feel them, or as closely as we can, anyway. It's his bravest novel yet; it's also, by far, his best." —NPR Books

Smile retains the usual pleasures of Doyle’s sharp dialogue, well-drawn characters and evocative but undemonstrative prose. It’s also a smart book about the performance of masculinity, the impact of religion on social mores and, most potently, the complicated ways we deal with the after-effects of trauma…. It’s guaranteed to make you think. You may be driven to find other readers to discuss it, over pints.” Maclean’s 

“[Doyle’s] darkest and perhaps finest work since The Woman Who Walked Into Doors twenty years ago, Smile combines tropes from the various strands of Doyle’s career . . . and merges them into a unique novel, one that is terribly moving and even, at times, distressing, while saving its greatest surprise until the end. . . . Like all good literature, [Smile] will inspire debate but also admiration for the courage of a hugely successful writer who refuses to be predictable and uses the novel to challenge both the reader’s sense of ease and the nature of the form itself.” —John Boyne, The Guardian

“[The] early scenes demonstrate Doyle’s gift for capturing the witty and often cruel banter that animates Irish pub talk, where every compliment hides a hidden barb and every put-down seals an unspoken social bond. . . . The terrible costs of [the] assault, and the link between Victor and Eddie, are revealed in a violent, dreamlike finale that will send many readers back to the novel’s first page to reassess everything they’ve read. It’s a risky move on Doyle’s part, but it works brilliantly. Only such confrontational force and honesty, Doyle is suggesting, can break the spell of bravado and willed forgetting that is the true cultural heritage of the Irish.” —James Grainger, Toronto Star

"Roddy Doyle is often heralded for his snappy dialogue and humor, but his literary greatness comes from routinely providing readers with a heartbreaking kick in the gut alongside.... Smile is a game-changing novel from one of the greats." The Iowa Gazette 

"Smile
is beautifully written, and beautifully observed. . . . There is not a superfluous word.” —The Daily Telegraph

“Roddy Doyle’s latest novel, which begins in a Dublin pub, seems to be straightforward enough—his signature blend of realism, comedy and potential heartache is delivered in laconic prose and crisp dialogue. What it turns out to be will surprise even his most ardent fans.” Winnipeg Free Press

Smile’s shock value isn’t in graphic or harrowing detail, but in its dizzying twist, which upends expectations. . . . [Doyle’s] novels fizz with demotic zing, comic phrasing and the back-and-forth of Irish chat.” —The Times

“Doyle does the fun stuff so well that we suppress doubts about these white lies. But then comes the devastating and comfortless finale, in which Doyle conjures up a mind-bending narrative swerve to jolt the novel out of everyday realism. The gamble comes off...” —The Guardian

"Dialogue, narrative pacing, humour and marvellous set pieces are immaculately marshalled throughout Smile
. . . . At the beginning of Smile, Fitzpatrick pronounces that memory is ‘like dropping bits of yourself as you go along.’ It says a lot about Doyle’s power that he is able to create such an intensely moving book that yet drops so much of itself as it approaches its end.” The Spectator (UK)

[Doyle's] command of voice is absolutely sure, his dialogue authentic and the Ireland his characters inhabit — still a patchwork of fifties pietism and noughties cosmopolitanism — completely available to his and the reader’s understanding.”  The Financial Times

Smile is at its best when Fitzpatrick’s constant goading forces Victor into intense self-examination. It becomes a book about how you can never keep memory at bay, no matter what facades and battlements you erect. You can simply never outrun what has happened to you. . . . [A] hugely moving tale of a ravaged life.Metro News (UK)

“[Smile] is told in Doyle’s easy, pared down prose and demotic dialogue that just sings. He remains the best kind of populist author; accessible and ambitious. What’s new here, though, is the sense of mystery, a feeling of eerie disconnect that one wouldn’t normally associate with Doyle. . . . [Smile offers] us a vision of a writer pushing into new emotional and narrative territory, pushing himself further. That’s surely something to welcome in a novelist who is now 30 years into his writing life.” The Herald

“Doyle turns the novel on its head. . . . The ending is a daring tour-de-force.” The Scotsman 

“Doyle very cleverly drops hints that all is not well in this slithery, stealthily deceptive novel, which dramatically pulls the rug from under the reader with a final image not just of one damaged man, but of an impotent country poisoned to the core by a history it cannot shake off.” Daily Mail

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“A return to form for the Dublin novelist. . . . [F]resh and bracing from page one. . . . It isn’t until the final pages that the reader understands just what Doyle has done, and it might take a rereading to appreciate just how well he has done it. The understatement of the narrative makes the climax all the more devastating.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 
 
“Readers anticipating Doyle’s trademark wit and warmth will instead encounter a psychological mystery with an enigmatic ending that will have them flipping to the beginning looking for clues. Doyle’s ability to convey so much meaning through rapid-fire dialog in the Irish vernacular is unsurpassed. His commentary about the Catholic Church, sexuality, and repression is searing.” —Library Journal
 
“Doyle flavors a compelling character study with a soupçon of suspense, misdirecting readers for a powerful purpose that is only fully revealed at the shocking, emotionally charged ending. Revealing the twist would ruin the experience: let’s just say Victor is hiding a trauma readers will be all too familiar with. Strong stuff.” —Booklist

Roddy Doyle always takes us deep below the laughter, into the reality of who we are, the reality that we can never hide from who we’ve been. This time achingly.” —Linden MacIntyre, author of The Bishop’s Man, winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize


PRAISE FOR RODDY DOYLE:

“[Doyle’s] mastery of voice and observed experience is a rare gift.” —Ottawa Citizen

“There is not a writer currently working in English who can match Doyle for the fluency with which he tacks back and forth between the hilarious and the heartbreaking.” —The New York Times
 
“Roddy Doyle has a magnificent gift for taking the ordinary and giving it life. The Booker Prize–winner takes mundane, everyday situations and makes them engrossing and real.” —Calgary Herald

“In terms of contemporary Irish literature, nobody has turned it inside out as profoundly as Roddy Doyle; he’s one of our greats.” —The New York Times

“I don’t think there’s anybody alive that’s better at dialogue than Roddy Doyle. . . . He actually writes dialogue and it reads at the speed of actual conversation and it gives it a buoyancy and a levity that’s central to his work. . . . His empathy for everyone in every story is pretty profound. . . . Obviously Roddy invests incredible humanity and warmth and just reality and truth into every character he writes. . . . He’s an indispensable voice.” —Dave Eggers, author of The Circle, The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
 

“Doyle’s brilliant use of dialogue and the first person narrative to get inside the skin of his subjects . . . ranks him as one of the best Irish writers of his time.” —London Free Press
 
“Doyle [is] the master of dialogue . . . He’s a craftsman, always trying to raise the level of his work. . . . Doyle’s stories of difficult, messy working-class life and the quality of his dialogue . . . have struck a chord with readers around the world.... What’s common in the novels . . . is Doyle’s depth of sympathy. Wretched things happen, people make foolish mistakes again and again, but the stories close at the point where characters have achieved some level of dignity.” —The Globe and Mail

“Doyle’s remarkable strength as a writer includes his ability to take the hardscrabble realities of Irish life, highlight its casual cruelties and kindnesses, inject the country’s trademark black humour, and weave it all into a coherent tale that resonates to readers elsewhere.” —Maclean’s 

“With his great dark wit sweeping the streets of Dublin for its hard-earned truths, Roddy Doyle is renowned for his comic gifts—he’s emerged in recent years as one of the eminent straight men of Ireland’s literary renaissance. But Doyle is funny the way the finest humourists dare to be, using comedy to make bearable the grimmest of human realities. His laughs aren’t satire and they’re never cheap; they’re more like a howitzer aimed at the usual suspects of poverty, greed, despair.” —Times Colonist (Victoria)

“Roddy Doyle, master of working-class family drama. . . . Doyle’s collected works are a superlative study of family, aging, and the dignity of the working class. . . . Faced with these literary landmines [namely, when discussing dignity in aging], Doyle confidently tap-dances across the minefield, always arriving unscathed. The charm of his characters is that such moments never descend into maudlin indulgence. . . . Doyle employs family levity with laser-guided precision. It is the balm that allows the reader and the characters to withstand plots teeming with the challenges of life, poor decisions, and accompanying atonements. . . . A master. . . . A genius.” —The Atlantic

“Like all great comic writers, Roddy Doyle has become an explorer of the deepest places of the heart, of love and pain and loss.” —The Irish Times