One time my friend, who is a musician, wrote this album and I bought it. I listened to it a handful of times and afterward I was like…..oh no, I think he got a divorce. Because the songs were so sad and pleading and heartfelt I was worried. So some internet snooping later, it turns out I was right.
I get the same feeling from this collection of stories. It’s not the saddest thing I have ever read, but it has such a motif of middle-aged men, lamenting the aging of their bodies, their relationships, their families, their ideas, and their hearts. It’s not that this is a bad thing, this is good writing through and through, but it’s a dour-ass affair. There’s also a good sense of older men who are starting to see what’s necessary for them to understand the world around them. They’re not heroes of their own stories, but they’re also not martyrs for the cause. Instead, they’re thoughtful, feeling, reading, caring people who are trying to make sense of the changing world around them.
The writing in this collection is as clear and strong as most anything Roddy Doyle has written. It’s not distinctive except by that fact, but it’s not hampered by it either. It’s not going to blow anybody out of the water I don’t think (the way his early novels do) but you’re going to find a competent writer writing competently. And if your goal is to continue a practiced and steady voice or to find a way into a rewarding writer, this is it.