Book Review: Life Without Children- Stories by Roddy Doyle

Title: Life Without Children- Stories

Author: Roddy Doyle

Genre: Short Stories

Number of Pages: 192

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes

Better than Bullfighting, but overall Roddy Doyle’s novels are much better than his short stories. I would recommend that somebody who’s interested in his work start with Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha or The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. Life Without Children is a collection of short stories written in Doyle’s usual rambly stream-of-consciousness style about Irish families struggling with the realities of living in COVID-19 times.

There’s a story about a father with a missing son, a man who gets into an accident in the midst of the disintegration of his relationship, and a man who thinks someone in his family is trying to kill him after he finds his cell phone in a bowl of water. All these stories were solid but my favorites were ‘Gone,’ ‘The Charger’ and ‘The Four Lamps.’ Like Bullfighting, the main problem with this book is almost all the protagonists of the stories are middle-aged men (‘Nurse’ is the only story with a female main character, and it’s probably the shortest story in this collection) and their voices and characters seem so similar that they all start to run together after a while.

Most of them are hangdog, ‘can’t get anything right types’ who are pretty bad at communicating with their loved ones. They feel like darker versions of the titular character in Charlie Savage, who’s such a mess he can’t always keep track of the names of his own children. Doyle did such a good job writing a female protagonist in The Woman Who Walked Into Doors that I feel like he should write more short stories revolving around women to mix things up a little bit. I guess I’m not the biggest fan of short stories anyway but Doyle is a great writer and can successfully combine day-to-day drama with really dark themes and Life Without Children is no exception. I just wish I didn’t get the sneaking feeling that I was reading different versions of the same story over and over.

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