Today’s book review of a short story collection is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
The Deportees & Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
Synopsis: For the past few years Roddy Doyle has been writing stories for Metro Eireann, a newspaper started by, and aimed at, immigrants to Ireland. Each of the stories took a new slant on the immigrant experience, something of increasing relevance and importance in today’s Ireland.
The stories range from ‘Guess Who’s Coming to the Dinner’, where a father who prides himself on his open-mindedness when his daughters talk about sex, is forced to confront his feelings when one of them brings home a black fella, to a terrifying ghost story, ‘The Pram’, in which a Polish nanny grows impatient with her charge’s older sisters and decides – in a phrase she has learnt – to ‘scare them shitless’.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.com/The-Deportees-Stories-Roddy-Doyle/dp/0670018457 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Deportees-Stories-Roddy-Doyle/dp/0670018457.
The audio starts with Roddy’s long introduction where he explains for the inspiration and connection of the collection (an influx of Nigerian refugees in the mid-90s) and that the eight stories are written (and therefore read) in 800-word chapters because Roddy was submitting them once a month (and usually as the deadline loomed) for the Metro Eireann newspaper where they were presumably serialised. I loved the mention that “characters disappear because I forgot about them.
The first story, Guess Who’s Coming For The Dinner, shows a father’s reaction to his daughter’s choice in men, an asylum-seeking Nigerian accountant.
The next story, the title story, is a follow-up to The Commitments featuring an older and wiser Jimmy Rabbitte and his search for non-Irish band members. There were some great one liners inc. ‘She was six months’ pregnant and retaining water like a camel.’ But the story felt more like a novel; too long (and a little tedious in places) for me.
Next up is ‘New Boy’ about a nine-year-old who’s just joined the school and, as is often the case, isn’t treated well by the other children. The teacher’s lovely though and my favourite character of the story.
Then we have ‘57% Irish’ all about football-loving Ray Brady who almost by accident becomes involved in tourism and comes up with an Irish test that even his mammy fails.. Another great one liner: Stalin wasn’t his girlfriend’s name, just her temperament. The story ends with Ray retiring just after his 50th birthday, a few years in the future, with a pint with friends in the Colin Farrell.
‘Black Hoodie’ explains that you’re never alone with a black girl or a black hoodie. Its a first-person account of half-dating a black girl, school (including learning to drive minus the car) and shoplifting, and how neither goes well. Its a clever and amusing supernatural tale.
‘Home to Harlem’ is the story of a black Irishman just arrived and studying in New York, Declan, 28 types of milk and literature.
The final story is ‘I Understand’, about a Nigerian living and working (illegally) in Dublin. I’ve heard it’s a great city and this is very descriptive.
Narrated by Hugh Lee, who was brilliant at accents and high-voiced children and women. A pleasure to listen to (apart from the occasional irritating screeching) and really, the best thing about the book but then I wasn’t a fan of the Commitments in the first place.
It’s a well-written collection and although it’s not my cup of tea (hence the three out of five) I’m sure Roddy Doyle fans will enjoy it.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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