The Woman who Walked into Doors

‘Broken nose. Loose teeth. Cracked ribs. Broken finger. Black eyes. I don’t know how many; I once had two at the same time, one fading, the other new.’ The Woman Who Walked into Doors is the story of Paula Spencer, a thirty-nine-year-old cleaner in Ireland who is struggling to put her life back together after her abusive husband leaves home. It’s an unvarnished look at one unremarkable-seeming woman’s life from childhood to early middle age, dwelling lovingly on the power and exhilaration of new romance as well as its terrible deterioration. Because of the non-linear format of the story, one minute we see Paula growing into herself as a young woman, and the next moment we see her having the remnants of that self literally beaten out of her. Now Paula is using what little resources she has to grope back to humanity and to try to pick up the pieces of her relationships with her children before it’s too late; this is like watching someone saving her own life.

At one point, Paula contrasts her young self with her hand down her boyfriend’s trousers at the back of the classroom with the woman she’s become, viewing herself with an objectiveness, lack of self-pity and even shy pride, ‘She had four children. She is a widow. She is an alcoholic. She has holes in her heart that never stop killing her. She sometimes thinks that she has cancer; she thinks that she deserves to have it. She isn’t fond of herself but she isn’t so certain that she’s stupid any more. She manages; she’s a survivor. She has loose skin on her arms but her neck is still alright.’

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Roddy Doyle
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