Book Review: The Snapper by Roddy Doyle

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Title: The Snapper

Author: Roddy Doyle

Series: The Barrytown Trilogy (Book #2)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Number of Pages: 224

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes



I skipped the first book in ‘The Barrytown Trilogy,’ The Commitments, because I tried to read it several times and just couldn’t get into it. That’s rare for me with Roddy Doyle because he’s one of my all-time favorite writers and I’ve really liked almost everything I’ve read by him in the past, and when I found The Snapper available at the local book fair decided not to worry about it being the second in a series and started reading it almost immediately after I got home.


This novel is about Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. (one of the characters from The Commitments) and his raucously dysfunctional family, but at heart it’s mostly about Jimmy Sr. and his daughter, Sharon, who is an adult but still lives at home with her parents and chaotic rabble of quarreling brothers and sisters. The book opens with Sharon telling her parents she’s pregnant and everybody wanting to know who the father is, but she refuses to tell anyone and instead lies to them and makes up an imaginary guy.


Jimmy Sr. unsurprisingly has a lot of big feelings about his daughter’s pregnancy, emotionally vacillating between being embarrassed by the gossip and scandal the situation brings onto the table and wanting to help his daughter as best he can. He’s pretty much an overgrown adolescent and hangs out with a bunch of rowdy drunkards at the local bar as often as he can get away from the chaos of home, and even though he isn’t good at expressing his feelings to them they know he’s going through a emotional times and continually show support for him.


One of the things Roddy Doyle is most gifted at is definitely the way he writes dialogue, not only does he do an amazing job with dialect but his characters have an unusually strong feeling of authenticity. They usually tend to be rough around the edges if not just plain unsavory but in most cases they’re portrayed in a way that, while not sugar-coated, is deeply humane. Like the other books I’ve read by Doyle, The Snapper is definitely not plot-driven and instead focuses on the relationships between the characters and the dialogues between them. Sometimes the dialogue is funny, but overall this book is more dark than it is comedic.


For instance, there’s the truth about Sharon’s pregnancy, which is the only thing I had a problem with in this book. I have no criticisms about the baby being conceived during a drunken sexual assault (this isn’t too much of a spoiler, since the reader finds out about the circumstances early on,) but I thought it was weird how much that whole element was ignored and downplayed throughout most of the book.


I mean, I get that that blasé attitude might have been realistic for those characters and that environment, but I wanted so badly for there to be some kind of closure there and for the perpetrator to be brought to justice and get what he deserved. I understood that Sharon’s weirdly casual attitude towards what happened was more of a survival mechanism than anything else and I think Roddy Doyle did a good job of conveying that, but I also found it really frustrating.


Anyway, I found it a little bit hard to get into Roddy Doyle’s writing style at first (the first book I read by him was Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and the stream-of-consciousness narrative and heavy dialect were a bit intimidating at first) but after the initial difficulties I really started to get into his books. There’s something about his writing that feels very true-to-life, in the way that he’s so honest about portraying ugliness in human behavior but without sinking into total hopelessness. There are a lot of people you wouldn’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time with in real life, but they’re so vibrant and full of life that it’s impossible not to believe in them.

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