Smile by Roddy Doyle
Penguin Publishing Group: 10/17/17
eBook review copy; 224 pages
Smile by Roddy Doyle is a very highly recommended excellent novel about a man examining his life and the uncertainty of memory.
Victor Forde, 54, is a failed writer who is looking for a local pub that
he can call his regular place. After his recent separation from his
famous wife, Rachel, he has returned to his hometown and rented a cheap
apartment. Now he simply wants a quiet place where he can have a slow
pint at night. He's decided on Donnelly's. Then a man called Fitzpatrick
shows up there, sits next to him, and immediately claims to know Victor
from secondary school. Victor doesn't recall the man at all and , in
fact, dislikes him on sight.
As he finds a group of regulars to sit with at Donnelly's, what Victor
tries to do is avoid Fitzpatrick at all costs. The man acts like they
are best friends, but, as he reviews his life, Victor seems to be afraid
of what Fitzpatrick might reveal. Fitzpatrick seems to know a lot about
Victor, but Victor cannot remember him at all. What Victor does is
begin to reminisce on events from his past. He looks back at his life as
a rock critic and political journalist. He recalls when he met Rachel
and her rise to fame. He recollects the radio programs where he was
invited to speak on controversial issues. But he especially begins to
remember his years being taught by the brothers at St.
Martin's Christian Brothers School, especially one brother.
Doyle brings all of his considerable, skillful writing ability to bear here and the result is stunning. Smile
may not evoke any mirth the title implies, but this is a memorable,
tenacious, and daring psychological mystery. the ending will have even
the most careful reader take pause and reexamine everything they have
just read. This is an exceptional novel that begs the reader to question
how we recall our own memories of events that have occurred in our
lives. Most of the novel is written in flashbacks. Not much can be
written about the ending, but it will shock and disturb you. Smile is nothing like any other novel by Doyle I've read, and yet it is remarkable. It also makes Smile a novel that is quite unforgettable.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.