In the first volume of the Barrytown Trilogy, Roddy Doyle, winner of the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, introduces The Commitments, a group of fame-starved, working-class Irish youths with a paradoxical passion for the music of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and a mission—to bring Soul to Dublin. Doyle writes about the band with a fan's enthusiasm and about Dublin with a native's cheerful knowingness. His book captures all the shadings of the rock experience: ambition, greed, and egotism—ans the redeeming, exhilarating joy of making music. The Commitments is one of the most engaging and believable novels about rock'n'roll ever written, a book whose brashness and originality have won it mainstream acclaim and underground cachet.
``Dublin soul'' is what the lads call it. Obsessed with James Brown, Percy Sledge and other rhythm-and-blues greats from across the ocean, young Jimmy Rabbitte organizes the ``world's hardest working band,'' made up of fellow Dubliners, and sets out to teach the town a lesson about soul. This cheeky first novel by a Dublin native, punctuated with Irish obscenities and quotes from soul classics, informed by righteous working-class anger and youthful alienation, offers the entertaining and insightful chronicle of The Commitment's rise and inevitable fall. In the process, impromptu sermons on the true meaning of soul are delivered in delightfully offhand fashion (``soul is lifting yourself up, soul is dusting yourself off''). But only a true-blue soul music fan will be able to appreciate the nuances and hear the melodies that resonate throughout the text, as The Commitments recite their slightly skewed versions of songs from the '60s (``when a ma-han loves a wo-man . . . he'll even bring her to stupid places like the zoo-oo-'').