More short takes

In an effort to clear my TBReviewed pile, here are two more shorter reviews:

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle (re-read)

commitmentsThis was our book group choice for last month – when we picked from a shortlist with a ‘Music’ theme. It was a re-read for me, and gosh this story of Jimmy Rabbitte and his short-lived Dublin soul band The Commitments brought back memories. This was the book that brought Roddy Doyle to our attention, especially after Alan Parker’s film in 1991, which was when I read the book originally.

-What are we Jimmy?
-The Commitments.
Outspan laughed again.
-That’s a rapid name, said Derek.
-Good, old-fashioned THE, said Jimmy.
He laughed again.
-Fuckin’ deadly.

The day after the formation of The Commitments Jimmy sent an ad into the Hot Press classifieds:
-Have you got Soul? If yes, The World’s Hardest Working Band is looking for you. Contact J.Rabbitte, 118, Chestnut Ave., Dublin 21. Rednecks and southsiders need not apply. (p15)

The story is very dialogue driven, a lot of it in sweary Dublin brogue rendered onto the page with unconventional speech punctuation. The cast of musical misfits are so colourful, but my favourite was old muso Joey the Lips Fagan, who called his trumpet Gina and seems to get all the best lines.

-My mentor always advised me to imagine that the mouthpiece was a woman’s nipple. I chose Gina Lollabrigida. A fine woman. (p25)

-Brother Jimmy, said Joey the Lips. -I’m worried. – About Dean.
-Wha’ abou’ Dean?
-He told me he’s been listening to jazz. (p107)

This novella is just so full of jokes and one-liners, every page is quotable. I loved it, but you must carry on to read the other two volumes about the Rabbitte family that make up Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy, the third of which, The Van – in which Jimmy’s dad and his best mate try to get rich with a fish & chips van, is just magical. The Commitments does have Soul, and is a must for music fans. (8.5/10)

Source: Own copy.

* * * * *

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

shock-of-fallThis prize-winning debut is a first person narrative told as memoir from the perspective of a troubled young man suffering from schizophrenia. The key event that triggers everything after is the death of Matt’s older brother Simon, who has Downs Syndrome, whilst on holiday when Matt was 9 yrs old.

I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.

Matt is hospitalised when he writes his story. The author is a mental health nurse, and when he describes life there, you really believe this is how it is – from the mundane routine, to art group which Matt loves, and his therapy and treatment of course. Matt tells his story in a plethora of slightly different styles – from diary entries to typed manuscripts to little interludes when words dart over the page – each a different facet of Matt’s schizophrenia, one assumes. It also moves around the timeline with a similarly short attention span.

It’s a grim story, full of grief and guilt. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I did gain an appreciation of living with Matt’s illness, and the effects on him and his family of Simon’s death. (7.5/10)

Source: I won this copy in a competition.

3 thoughts on “More short takes

  1. Oh gosh, I loved The Shock of the Fall. I need to go back and reread it — I keep asking for it for Christmas and birthdays, and nobody heeds me. :p I thought it was such a lovely, respectful portrayal of mental illness, it made me cry many tears.

Leave a Reply