Thursday, February 04, 2016

Roddy Doyle, The Snapper: A Review

Probably most of you have heard of Roddy Doyle, who wrote The Commitments -- that was the first book of his I read as well, just after seeing the movie version, both of which I recommend, especially for anyone interested in the use of dialect in fiction.  Doyle's great at that.

Right now I'm re-reading The Snapper, which is a not-quite sequel to The Commitments.

The Commitments concerns Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr, and his quest to start a Blues band in Dublin. The Snapper is the story of his sister, Sharon, who is "up the pole," in the dialect of the book.  She's pregnant, in other words -- nineteen years old, and not married.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the fella who got her pregnant, and how Sharon deals with him, as well as around her pregnancy.  But what makes the book work is Doyle's genius with dialect and with his ability to show working class culture in Dublin.

Jimmy Sr, Sharon's father, and her mother Veronica, kind of know they should be angry that Sharon is pregnant out of wedlock.  But in fact, they're not. "Sure, that's wha' we were put down here for," one of Jimmy Sr.'s friends noted, "To have snappers." And Jimmy Sr. agrees.

The Rabbittes, Jimmy Sr. and Veronica, have a passel of kids themselves -- I kept losing count, but I think it's six or seven. Both Sharon, at 19, and Jimmy Jr, who must be in his 20s in this book, live at home; and there is no notion that either should be thinking of leaving, or renting their own place, as we'd find in an American family.

There's also no harsh discipline or the notion that the father (or the mother) needs to be a stern authority figure. In one sequence, Jimmy Sr. watches a TV report on child abuse in England and is appalled at two things -- one, that you can get prosecuted for hitting your kids; and two, that some people sexually abuse children. He raises his concerns with his friends (both he and Sharon have a circle of friends they spend time with, mostly while drinking at the pub); his friends are as appalled as he is at the notion that anyone might abuse children sexually, but reassure him that smacking your kid "when he's bold" is not going to get him arrested.

Not that Jimmy Sr. does much smacking. Indeed, mostly he indulges his children -- well, indulges seems like the wrong word.  In fact, Doyle does an excellent job of showing us how much both Jimmy Sr. and Veronica enjoy their children. He's created children who are actual characters, and parents who truly like their kids, who enjoy being around those children. Jimmy Sr. and Veronica, for all they're occasionally exasperated, truly seem to want their kids to be happy.

The dialect is also great. I'm a sucker for dialect done well, and this is done brilliantly.

There's also a movie, though I haven't seen it.

I recommend this book for everyone, except maybe those who are offended by (near constant, though brilliant) profanity.

1 comment:

Rosa said...

because we live in the future, I just got this for free, from my public library, in e-book form, instantly. Thank you for the rec!