To my shame, I am a late bloomer when it comes to the literary works of Roddy Doyle, and as an avid reader I was overly excited for my first date with his new novel Love, now in paperback - alas, this date proved to be somewhat lacklustre.
Davy and Joe are old friends, who live oceans apart, and they seldom get the chance to enjoy each other's company anymore. Now in their fifties, the two men meet for several pints across pubs in Dublin City to catch up, reminisce, delve - and not delve - into all the emotions of all their shared experiences.
Davy is visiting from his home in England, where he emigrated with his wife many years before, and he cannot help the feeling that this may the last of his rendezvous with Joe.
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Listen: Roddy Doyle talks Love with Brendan O'Connor on RTÉ Radio 1
Whether or not this does prove to be the pair’s last encounter, Joe has a secret to reveal to Davy which will ensure it is their most memorable.
Joe has left his wife and family for another woman named Jess, an elusive gorgeous woman from both his and Davy’s youth who enraptured both young men at first glance all those years ago. Neither of them ever managed to catch the beautiful cello player's eye, or at least that is what Davy thought.
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Joe reveals his new relationship with Jess to Davy, and the depth of feeling he has towards her. For Joe, this is not a new romance, but instead the call of his destiny and he will spend the entire evening trying to explain his soul’s cosmic connection with this true love.
Needless to say, Davy is sceptical of Joe’s new relationship and inclined instead to believe that his old friend is fulfilling a typical stereotype - an ageing man experiencing a midlife crisis who finds new excitement and sense of self by abandoning his wife and family.
As Joe attempts to use a myriad of examples and tropes to convey his emotions, the novel focuses on the many forms and variations of love. The stories become the conduit for unveiling the layers of relationships of their past and present. How love was experienced, expressed, its impact and resonance echoing throughout their lives to the present day.
In his latest 336-page opus, Roddy Doyle’s writing is sharp, quick-witted and unique. His ease with language ensures an enjoyable narrative approach, with pages upon pages of spoken dialogue that are best read aloud in order to fully appreciate the ebb and flow of passages.
The plot in this instance. however, fell a bit short of the bar for me. A lot of the novel felt like waiting for things to really get going, to suck me in and move me on a deep level.
Alas the storyline instead meandered back and forth, floating around topics that failed to fully grasp my attention or evoke a reaction. Perhaps avid Doyle fans, or readers of a different generation, may find the inspiration and Love that so eluded me.
Read Grace Keane's review of Smile, Doyle's penultimate novel, published in 2018