It’s pretty bold, calling your book Love. You’ve got to be confident to think anyone will find you on google with that title. So this is a destination book, for those of us who already love Roddy Doyle (me). And the cover is unbelievably gorgeous.
This is a modern day love story, where loves are described by two increasingly drunk old friends across a collection of Dublin’s pubs. The love is off the page, we don’t meet any of the beloved. It’s one guy talking most of the time — that’s Joe gabbing about meeting up again with a girl the men both fancied way back and leaving his wife for her (don’t get him wrong, he loves his wife but this is different); and our man listening — that’s Davie, frustrated by Joe’s circuitous story, thinking of his wife at home in England, how they met, why he loves her.
Davie’s back in Ireland visiting his father. He and Joe were best mates when they were first old enough to go pubbing and would sit around mesmerised by the beautiful people and try to inveigle their way into the circle of friends. Trying to get closer to the beautiful girl with the cello. Joe was always the leader, you get the feeling Davie’s impatience has a long history.
The men reluctantly have pint after pint, both kind of trying to call a halt but Joe wants to get his story out and Davie, like the reader, is waiting for the punchline. I’m on Davie’s side — just when I think I’ve had enough of Joe’s side-stepping the big questions (Did he get off with her all those years ago? Why is she so compelling now? What’s the catch?) there’s a pull on the hook and you find yourself agreeing: OK, just one more glass, then I’m really going.
But Jaysus, two drunk middle-aged men in a pub can be boring.
—She’ll come round, I told Joe.
—Ah, she will.
—I don’t know, I said. —But she will.
—Just have to be patient, I suppose, he said.
—Yeah, that’s it.
—It’s hard, though.
—Where were we?
They get less coherent as the night goes on and we slowly get to hear what the other is trying to say.
In the end it is all about love, and is poignant and wonderful and unexpected and I really doubt the blokes could have taken us there without going through all the warm up. I reckon two women could have said it over a glass of wine.
But it’s not about the women. It’s a story about Irish men.