Roddy Doyle, The Snapper (Lon:Secker & Warburg 1990; Minerva 1991).

The Rabbitte family, ‘Barrytown’ [Kilbarrack], North Dublin; Jimmy Rabbitte, his wife Veronica, Les, Sharon, Jimmy Jr., Darren, and the twins Linda and Tracy. Sharon gets pregnant by Mr. Burgess, the seedy father of her friend Yvonne. He has sex with her standing up when she is sick and drunk at a disco. She pretends the father is a Spanish sailor but is disbelieved when he boasts of having had her. Burgess is frightened into silence by Jimmy Sr., but then leaves home in a fit of sentimentality and chauvinism, and idiotically invites Sharon to join him. Sending him on his way, she offers to leave home but is restrained by Jimmy Sr., who shames himself by crying [‘Don’t tell Jimmy Jr. … he looks up to me, yeh know.’ 163-4]. She prepares for her impending delivery amid the tatters of her alibi. Among cloudbursts of family pride, the Rabbittes also come to terms with the new state of affairs and prepare to welcome a new member. The book is written chiefly in short slangy comic dialogue, and set at the Rabbitte house and the local pub. It describes a harsh social culture dominated by a constant searching for an appreciation of laughs—‘Barrytown’s sense of humour’—sharp-tongued, yet tolerant and supportive. It includes an amusing and touching account of sexual relations between the Rabbitte parents, in which Jimmy applies the lesson on cunnilingus that he has learned from a feminist handbook [Everywoman]

Snapper was panned by the 1990 reviews. It is manifestly sentimental in its ending, and probably unfounded in its tolerance of the virtual rape of Sharon by a member of her parent’s generation. But its quick-fire humour and frankness of language gives it a vitality and immediacy and credibility. The obvious comparison is with Sean O’Casey, though it is not poetical in aspect.

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