About this title:
When we first met Paula Spencer - in "The Woman Who Walked into Doors" - she was thirty-nine, recently widowed, an alcoholic struggling to hold her family together. "Paula Spencer" begins on the eve of Paula's forty-ninth birthday. She hasn't had a drink for four months and five days. Her youngest children, Jack and Leanne, are still living with her. They're grand kids, but she worries about Leanne. Paula still works as a cleaner, but all the others doing the job now seem to come from Eastern Europe, and the checkout girls in the supermarket are Nigerian. You can get a cappuccino in the cafe, and her sister Carmel is thinking of buying a holiday home in Bulgaria. Paula's got four grandchildren now; two of them are called Marcus and Sapphire. Reviewing "The Woman Who Walked into Doors", Mary Gordon wrote: "It is the triumph of this novel that Mr Doyle - entirely without condescension - shows the inner life of this battered house-cleaner to be the same stuff as that of the heroes of the great novels of Europe." Her words hold true for this new novel. "Paula Spencer" is brave, tenacious and very funny. The novel that bears her name is another triumph for Roddy Doyle.
About the Author:
Roddy Doyle was born in Dublin in 1958. He is the author of seven acclaimed novels and Rory & Ita, a memoir about his parents. He won the Booker Prize in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
She copes. A lot of the time. Most of the time. She copes. And sometimes she doesn’t. Cope. At all.
This is one of the bad days.
She could feel it coming. From the minute she woke up. One of those days. It hasn’t let her down.
She’ll be forty-eight in a few weeks. She doesn’t care about that. Not really.
It’s more than four months since she had a drink. Four months and five days. One of those months was February. That’s why she started measuring the time in months. She could jump three days. But it’s a leap year; she had to give one back. Four months, five days. A third of a year. Half a pregnancy, nearly.
A long time.
The drink is only one thing.
She’s on her way home from work. She’s walking from the station. There’s no energy in her. Nothing in her legs. Just pain. Ache. The thing the drink gets down to.
But the drink is only part of it. She’s coped well with the drink. She wants a drink. She doesn’t want a drink. She doesn’t want a drink. She fights it. She wins. She’s proud of that. She’s pleased. She’ll keep going. She knows she will.
But sometimes she wakes up, knowing the one thing. She’s alone.
She still has Jack. Paula wakes him every morning. He’s a great sleeper. It’s a long time now since he was up before her. She’s proud of that too. She sits on his bed. She ruffles his hair. Ruffles — that’s the word. A head made for ruffling. Jack will break hearts.
And she still has Leanne. Mad Leanne. Mad, funny. Mad, good. Mad, brainy. Mad, lovely — and frightening.
They’re not small any more, not kids. Leanne is twenty-two. Jack is nearly sixteen. Leanne has boyfriends. Paula hasn’t met any of them. Jack, she doesn’t know about. He tells her nothing. He’s been taller than her since he was twelve. She checks his clothes for girl-smells but all she can smell is Jack.
He’s still her baby.
It’s not a long walk from the station. It just feels that way tonight. God, she’s tired. She’s been tired all day. Tired and dark.
This place has changed.
She’s not interested tonight. She just wants to get home. The ache is in her ankles. The ground is hard. Every footstep cracks her.
Paula Spencer. That’s who she is.
She wants a drink.
The house is empty.
She can feel it before she shuts the door behind her.
She needs the company. She needs distraction. They’ve left the lights on, and the telly. But she knows. She can feel it. The door is louder. Her bag drops like a brick. There’s no one in.
Get used to it, she tells herself.
She’s finished. That’s how it often feels. She never looked forward to it. The freedom. The time. She doesn’t want it.
She isn’t hungry. She never really is.
She stands in front of the telly. Her coat is half off. It’s one of those house programmes. She usually likes them. But not tonight. A couple looking around their new kitchen. They’re delighted, opening all the presses.
She turns away. But stops. Their fridge, on the telly. It’s the same as Paula’s. Mrs Happy opens it. And closes it. Smiling. Paula had hers before them. A present from Nicola. The fridge. And the telly. Both presents.
Nicola is her eldest.
Paula goes into the kitchen. The fridge is there.
–You were on the telly, she says.
She feels stupid. Talking to the fridge. She hated that film, Shirley Valentine, when Shirley talked to the wall. Hello, wall. She fuckin’ hated it. It got better, the film, but that bit killed it for her. At her worst, her lowest, Paula never spoke to a wall or anything else that wasn’t human. And now she’s talking to the fridge. Sober, hard-working, reliable — she’s all these things these days, and she’s talking to the fridge.
It’s a good fridge, though. It takes up half the kitchen. It’s one of those big silver, two-door jobs. Ridiculous. Twenty years too late. She opens it the way film stars open the curtains. Daylight! Ta-dah! Empty. What was Nicola thinking of? The stupid bitch. How to make a poor woman feel poorer. Buy her a big fridge. Fill that, loser. The stupid bitch. What was she thinking?
But that’s not fair. She knows it’s not. Nicola meant well; she always does. All the presents. She’s showing off a bit. But that’s fine with Paula. She’s proud to have a daughter who can fling a bit of money around. The pride takes care of the humiliation, every time. Kills it stone dead.
She’s not hungry. But she’d like something to eat. Something nice. It shocked her, a while back — not long ago. She was in Carmel, her sister’s house. Chatting, just the pair of them that afternoon. Denise, her other sister, was away somewhere, doing something — she can’t remember. And Carmel took one of those Tesco prawn things out of her own big fridge and put it between them on the table. Paula took up a prawn and put it into her mouth — and tasted it.
–Lovely, she said.
–Yeah, said Carmel. –They’re great.
Paula hadn’t explained it to her. The fact that she was tasting, really tasting something for the first time in — she didn’t know how long. Years. She’d liked it. The feeling. And she’d liked the prawns. And other things she’s eaten since. Tayto, cheese and onion. Coffee. Some tomatoes. Chicken skin. Smarties.She’s tasted them all.
But the fridge is fuckin’ empty. She picks up the milk carton. She weighs it. Enough for the morning. She checks the date. It’s grand; two days to go.
There’s a carrot at the bottom of the fridge. She bends down — she likes raw carrots. Another new taste. But this one is old, and soft. She should bring it to the bin. She lets it drop back into the fridge. There’s a jar of mayonnaise in there as well. Half empty. A bit yellow. Left over from last summer. There’s a bit of red cheese, and a tub of Dairygold.
There’s a packet of waffles in the freezer. There’s two left in the packet — Jack’s breakfast. There’s something else in the back of the freezer, covered in ice, hidden. Stuck there. The package is red — she can see that much. But she doesn’t know what it is. She’d have to hack at it with a knife or something. She couldn’t be bothered. Anyway, if it was worth eating it wouldn’t be there.
From the Hardcover edition.
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