From the author of the Booker Prize winning Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, a bold, haunting novel about the uncertainty of memory and how we contend with the past.
"It's his bravest novel yet; it's also, by far, his best." -- npr.org
“The closest thing he’s written to a psychological thriller."– The New York Times Book Review
Just moved into a new apartment, alone for the first time in years, Victor Forde goes every evening to Donnelly’s for a pint, a slow one. One evening his drink is interrupted. A man in shorts and a pink shirt comes over and sits down. He seems to know Victor’s name and to remember him from secondary school. His name is Fitzpatrick.
Victor dislikes him on sight, dislikes, too, the memories that Fitzpatrick stirs up of five years being taught by the Christian Brothers. He prompts other memories—of Rachel, his beautiful wife who became a celebrity, and of Victor’s own small claim to fame, as the man who would say the unsayable on the radio. But it’s the memories of school, and of one particular brother, that Victor cannot control and which eventually threaten to destroy his sanity.
Smile has all the features for which Roddy Doyle has become famous: the razor-sharp dialogue, the humor, the superb evocation of adolescence, but this is a novel unlike any he has written before. When you finish the last page you will have been challenged to reevaluate everything you think you remember so clearly.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
How much of our past is real and how much do we invent it ourselves? In this thoughtful novel, Irish author Roddy Doyle—who is best known for rollicking comedies like The Commitments and The Snapper—explores this weighty and complex question. The book’s protagonist, music journalist Victor Forde, never did get around to writing the big book everyone expected of him. A chance meeting with an old acquaintance at his local Dublin pub gets Victor thinking about this aspect of his past, as well as his troubled youth, his failed marriage to a TV star, and all the schoolyard bullies (and that one priest) who singled him out for abuse. Full of Doyle’s trademark dry wit and terse, hard-hitting Irish dialogue, Smile is more serious than the author’s other novels, digging deep into difficult topics like the disappointments of middle age and the failures of memory. It’s hard to say more without spoiling some of the novel’s most compelling moments, so we’ll just say that Smile left us utterly gobsmacked.
The latest novel from the Booker Prize winning author of Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha explores the intricate psychology and history of a failed Irish writer who has recently separated from his famous wife. Having rented a cheap apartment in the unnamed Irish hometown he'd left behind, Victor Forde passes his bleary nights at Donnelly's, a nondescript local pub where he soon runs into a forgotten, ornery schoolmate, Fitzpatrick. From there, the book's structure takes some twists and turns as Fitzpatrick forces Victor through difficult recollections of his Christian Brothers school years, his poignant courtship of his celebrity chef wife, and the controversial pro-choice radio interviews that made him infamous. A revelation brings the relationship between Victor and Fitzpatrick to a violent conclusion, leading to an ambiguous twist ending sure to spark debate in readers. Doyle skillfully depicts the triumphs and tragedies of the everyday, how the aging process humbles and ennobles, and how a single hasty decision made in one's youth can define and destroy a mind and thus a life.