Love and marriage, children and family, death and grief. Life touches everyone the same, but living under lockdown? It changes us alone.
A man abroad wanders the stag-and-hen-strewn streets of Newcastle, as news of the virus at home asks him to question his next move. An exhausted nurse struggles to let go, having lost a much-loved patient in isolation. A middle-aged son, barred from his mother's funeral, wakes to an oncoming hangover of regret. Told with Doyle's signature warmth, wit and extraordinary eye for the richness that underpins the quiet of our lives, Life Without Children cuts to the heart of how we are all navigating loss, loneliness and the shifting of history underneath our feet.
'Life Without Children is boldly exhilarating, with its revelations of quiet love and the sheer charm of the characters' voices' Sunday Times
'Quietly devastating...shivers with emotion' Financial Times
'In the stripping away of everyday anxieties, the virus reveals what matters most, those qualities that are always at the heart of Doyle's fiction: love and connection' Observer
'Moving...and beautiful' Daily Mail
Doyle's accomplished collection (after the novel Love) probes the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on a series of marriages. A mug angrily thrown at a wall during an argument in "Box Sets" turns out to be the last straw for a recently laid-off husband and his disillusioned wife. The mug doesn't shatter, rather it prophetically breaks in half "along an old crack." The title story features a father of four who is on a work trip in England, where he toys with the temptation to abandon his family back in Dublin. In "The Curfew," regional lockdown guidelines induce sadness, panic, and hopelessness, all of which are compounded for a man after he receives a dire coronary diagnosis. "Nurse" features a healthcare worker reflecting on the inner turmoil induced by her daily reality, while in contrast, a man mourns the loss of his own routine in "Masks." It is only during Doyle's final few stories that his characters begin to find compassion and hope. A master of dialogue whether strained, deceptive, or free-flowing Doyle has a keen eye for the interconnectedness and the criticality of communication, which makes these stories shimmer. Doyle's raw portrayal of living and loving under lockdown has a deep resonance.