Roddy Doyle was by far and away my favourite author of the "here, young precocious young lady, read this improving literature" years at school. Thinking about it, he was the only author suggested to me by my other, much less cool English teacher. Thinking about it, perhaps coolness should not have been measured by shopping in Warehouse and having peroxide-blonde hair, but by actually listening to the books I like and suggesting an author who was similar.
I loved absolutely everything Roddy Doyle wrote. I did a sixth-form coursework piece on The Snapper, and must have read The Barrytown Trilogy in its entirety at least twenty times, judging by the state of my copy. Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha was a rare thing - a Booker prize winner I actually enjoyed. So sad, and so real. In fact I remember crying when A was little because I bought a ladybird book in a charity shop that contained the lines ""Yes yes", said the girl. "We all need a drink!" which had been used to such great effect in the novel.
I lapped up everything he wrote, and loved it. Then A Star Called Henry came out, and I bought it in hardback in the days before Amazon for nearly twenty quid because I knew how much I would love it. Except I didn't. I hated it. It was depressing, violent and boring. That was it, he'd let me down, and it felt like a massive abuse of trust (because obviously Roddy, who I've never met, only wrote books to please me, a 20 year old English woman). I have not read anything he's written since.
However, it's my mission this year to read the whole of the Carnegie shortlist. I vowed to do it last year, but achieved the paltry total of three and a half (the half being My Name is Mina which was an authentic take on a diary of a young misfit girl. I I had wanted to read the diary of a young misfit girl, I would have spent a couple of evenings reading my own Five Year Diary from back in the day, and it probably would have been more interesting. Not because my diary is interesting, but because My Name is Mina is more boring that watching a particularly boring shade of paint dry. Slowly.)
Roddy Doyle has a book on the shortlist for this years' Carnegie Medal. Greyhound of a Girl I approached it with caution, as though it might contain some kind of harmful poison. It doesn't. It's absolutely heart-breakingly wonderfully brilliant. Really simple, no twists, and absolutely true, but clearly fiction. Doyle at his very best. It's similar to A Monster Calls in that there is a great deal of pain in it, and a great deal of thinking about acceptance. However, it is nowhere near as harrowing as the Ness novel, and is suitable for around 8+, because it is very gentle.
A is reading it now. However she did say "Why do they all talk so funny?" I, of course, didn't notice that at all, having been weaned onto adult fiction by a diet of "he's after going" and "so it is". Although I did notice a distinct absence of "Jaysus" and other, more choice, curses, with which the Barrytown Trilogy is rather liberally sprinkled. Which is certainly a good thing.
Highly recommended. I am sure Roddy will be absolutely thrilled to hear that I intend to start reading his novels again. What with me being the one he writes for and all.