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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Van
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2001
This is my fourth Roddy Doyle book and although I would recommend anything he writes, this is by far the best I have read so far. It struck me that anyone who likes the UK series "The Royle Family" would love this book. The central character is a beer-loving layabout who sees the Van Project as a big game, which he eventually tires of. The Rise and Fall of these entrepreneurs is about the funniest thing I have ever read. I guess there are some people who won't like it, but I hope I don't get invited to one of their "dinner parties". I can't recommend this enough.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Roddy Doyle was born in Dublin in 1958 and saw his first novel, "The Commitments", published in 1987. It was later adapted for the big screen, a version that saw Star Trek's Colm Meaney and a very young Andrea Corr among the cast. "The Snapper" was firs published in 1990 and is the second book in his "Barrytown Trilogy".

Where "The Commitments" followed Jimmy Rabbite's attempts to bring soul "back" to Dublin, he takes a back seat in "The Snapper". (He now hopes to be a famous DJ, rather than a manager or a drummer - an ambition that quickly earns him the nickname "Larry Gogan". You'll probably need to have spent little time in Ireland to catch that one... ). Instead, the starring roles go to his sister, Sharon, and his father, Jimmy Senior. The book opens with Sharon in a horrible situation : twenty years old, still living at home and three months pregnant, she's breaking the 'bad' news to her parents. She's decided not to name the father - though, there's plenty of speculation, suggestion and rumour over the following six months. Some of it is embarrassingly close to the mark, and causes her no end of trouble. While Sharon's pregnancy obviously isn't easy for her, it also puts Jimmy Snr through the mill - shock, concern, embarrassment and anger. He even, briefly, casts himself as her champion in defending her honour.

A very enjoyable and easily book - it's also a good deal better than "The Commitments". While the language is (authentically) 'colourful', it's generally a good-natured book and there's plenty of humour. (However, some of the humour may be lost if you're not familiar with the Irish dialect). Well worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2011
I first read this book, the third in the Barrytown trilogy, when it came out and loved it to bits. Since then it has become, along with my PG Wodehouse books, a read and reread favourite. It might now be 20 years old but it doesn't date one bit, and with every reading there is something more that I discover to make me laugh or indeed shed a tear.

The dialogue crackles with Dublin wit and humour and the cast of characters is wonderful. The story is a funny and poignant look at the relationship between two pals, Jimmy Sr. and Bimbo. Jimmy has always been the leader, the worldly wise one who sets the agenda, and his best friend, Bimbo, has always been his compliant wingman. Always ready to go along with and be guided by Jimmy who knows best.

Jimmy's been made redundant before the story opens and is delighted when Bimbo suffers the same fate. Not because Bimbo's been thrown on the scrapheap; Jimmy knows what that's like and wouldn't wish it on anybody; but as it's happened Jimmy doesn't see why he can't make the best of it for both their sakes.

Now that Bimbo has his days free he's a little ready made friend for Jimmy to play with, and after an initial rocky start as an unemployed statistic, Bimbo gradually gets into the swing of things and the pair are soon filling their days in one another's company playing pitch and putt, babysitting Jimmy's granddaughter and doing lots of other things together.

Bimbo's not happy and wants a job, almost any job will do, at one point he even considers applying for a McJob complete with nylon uniform. Jimmy's not keen for this to happen. It would threaten, what if perhaps not the exactly idyllic, then certainly the bearable existence that Jimmy's living day-to-day with his friend. But then when Bimbo buys a clapped-out chipper van (minus an engine) with part of his redundancy money through the completely fabulous Bertie who acts a middleman for the vendor, the stage is set for a wonderful look at male relationships at both their warmest and most raw.

With a bit of encouragement Bimbo manages to get Jimmy to help him somehow get the derelict van back on the road and selling chips to the immediate neighbourhood, but that's just the start of the story. The book which has been superb up until this point now switches into overdrive and is just simply faultless right through to the end.

The Van is my favourite modern novel, it was on the Booker shortlist the year of its publication, and after reading it again just before Christmas I am convinced that it will be a long time, if indeed ever, before I read another that tops it for me.

Do yourself a favour and buy it. You won't be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 1999
This book is the story of how life long friends Bimbo and Jimmy Senior, both having become unemployed, try to make a living by starting in business with a fish & chip van. The dialogue in the book is so well written that within a few pages you can almost hear the thick Dublin accents of the characters in your head as you read the book. The story is a humorous exploration of how the main characters relationship changes over time when confronted with being business partners as well as drinking partners. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2000
Laughed till I nearly cried whilst reading this, a side of pregnancy I have never thought of before. This book has been passed around a circle of friends and is the kind of book you want to read all over again in case you missed something the first time around!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2004
Roddy Doyle has a writing style so unique, you don't even need the authors name on the book. His style just can't be copied.
This book is the most hilarious book you will ever read, I laughed out loud right the way through.
This man truly has a brilliant imagination, Without any descriptive prose he can make you feel like you are part of the story.
I think this book was nominated for the Booker, but didn't get it. Although Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha did.
IF YOU'VE NOT READ THIS BOOK YET GO OUT AND GET IT NOW.
A Truly Fantastic, Brilliant, Brilliant Read.
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on 14 July 2013
Nothing to do with photography, the 'Snapper' is a baby - as in "Young Whipper Snapper". Doyle wrote this in 1990 three years after writing his first novel "The Commitments" and this is the second of a trilogy "The Barrytown Trilogy." To my mind in the time frame of the novels, the Snapper comes before The Commitments as Jimmy Rabbitte junior seems younger - see what you think. Jimmy Rabbitte Senior is the head of the family and holds the book together, the other characters spin around him. Jimmy Rabbitte Junior, the main character in the Commitments, plays only a cameo role in this novel, being younger (in my mind) and having illusions of, one day, becoming a DJ.

The main story character is daughter Sharon who, when extremely drunk, gets pregnant by her friends father. The novel then traces the attitudes and feelings of Jimmy Rabbitte Senior and his friends, Sharon and her friends and those of the matriarchal Veronica, as Sharon tries to keep her baby's fathers identity a secret. Sharon makes up a plausible story to keep them all from asking questions.

As with The Commitments, if you do not like swearing in a book then you will not enjoy this novel. The novel has to be read with an Irish accent in your head but this is not difficult as Doyle furnishes you with the phrases and spellings to get you on your way.

This is not a 100% comedy as indicated on the back cover but there are moments when you will laugh out loud, even if reading in public. On the whole this is a very poignant novel, full of feeling, hope, anger and frustration, which the characters try and alleviate with comedy -a comedy that you will become a part of.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 July 2013
I must admit to not having read anything by Roddy Doyle until picking up The Van recently (though I am a big fan of the film The Commitments) and, given that it is the third in a trilogy of novels about his working class Irish family, Barrytown's the Rabbittes, I guess this might not be the ideal place to start. However, not surprisingly of course, it is pretty much a standalone storyline (with Jimmy Jnr., of Commitments manager fame, having receded much into the background) and one that is, somewhat deceptively, poignant and powerful.

For me, Doyle's great skill here is the way he, using some of the simplest, bluntest, frequently obscene, but no doubt totally authentic, language, manages to create a set of engaging characters, who, despite their many flaws, are cast in a simple, but at the same time funny, warm-hearted and increasingly poignant (profound even), tale. His exploration of the male, working class, Irish (although, I would argue, his characterisations would equally apply much more widely) psyche, and its frustrations with parental (and marital) responsibility, plus how to survive economically in late 20th century recession-hit Ireland (fictional Barrytown, in County Dublin, to be precise) provides some of the most skilful and perceptive writing I have read on this milieu for some time. Using the 'chipper' van that Bimbo, best pal of the novel's central character, unemployed Jimmy Rabbitte Snr., has purchased (with his redundancy money), Doyle cleverly uses the pair's mixed experiences of their brush with small-time capitalism to explore the consequent tensions created for their friendship and their family relationships.

Very much a recommended read. I shall now proceed to progress through some of Doyle's other work.
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on 11 December 2012
Roddy Doyle has succeeded in captivating me with the simplistic yet powerful manner in which he writes his novels. Doyle never overwrites, allowing the strength of his bittersweet characters to drive the story along. This short yet iconic dark comedy novel has its charms. Located in the north of Dublin, where conviviality and family bond are the main elements to making it through the day to day commotion of a small community, this fascinating novel depicts genuine, working class Dubliners living genuine, hard grafting lives, often based around the local pub and football.

Jimmy Senior is without a job and disillusioned. He spends most of his days with his beloved granddaughter, desperately trying to do something worthwhile and constructive with his time. Despite his best efforts to make light of his increasingly dire situation, Jimmy Senior often lets his short temper get the better of him. This is where I find myself at the forefront of such a brilliant well written humorous novel. Doyle cleverly transcends humor into common everyday situations, while simultaneously depicting a number of ordinary working class Irish folk going through a very difficult time in their respective lives.

When Jimmy Senior's close companion Brendan, commonly known throughout the book as Bimbo, is made redundant, Jimmy gains newfound optimism as he also has someone with a considerable amount of time on their hands. After Bimbo's redundancy settlement arrives through the post Bimbo has a promising idea in the pipeline and the two friends go on to peruse an improbable business endeavor.

The novel isn't the most simplistic of reads, with its underlying focus being solely about individuals rather than events which are more accustomed to be seen throughout these types of books. Doyle's quick yet affectionate comic feel towards his characters creates a sense of warm realism throughout the book. Frequent dialogue and colloquial speech subsequently makes the characters warm to the reader, while the close relationship between Bimbo and Jimmy is depicted with complete honesty. The environment of Doyle's characters is filled with immense detail, I feel as if I'm lost in a place so unfamiliar that by the end of the story I feel like I'm the protagonist's next door neighbor.

Roddy Doyle is undoubtedly an accomplished novelist; his writing style throughout the book is one of great poise and conviction. It is clear what he is trying to achieve through the basis of reading the novel. Doyle successfully outlines but more importantly focuses on the dire circumstances and daily struggles that come along with unemployment within working class Ireland, and also how close companionships have the potential to be affected when becoming too embroiled in business endeavors. It once more highlights Doyle's astute ability to depict real life circumstances, whereby ordinary people can lose their jobs, quarrel as a family, and express happiness and sorrow just like the rest of us. A beautifully written novel, and certainly a Doyle masterpiece, amusing and poignant, after reading this book, you too will be recommending it to both friends and family.
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on 24 September 2012
Roddy Doyle is best known for being the author of The Commitments which was made into a smash hit film. When I started reading The Van I expected the same kind of larger than life characters as The Commitments and I wasn't disappointed.
Jimmy Senior is unemployed and depressed. He spends his time with his granddaughter trying to fill the endless days. He tries his best to make light of his situation but his anger often gets the better of him.
This is where we find ourselves at the start of the novel. Doyle injects humour into everyday situations whilst at the same time showing us some ordinary Irish folk having a very rough time of it.
When Jimmy Senior's friend Brendan, known to all as Bimbo, is made redundant Jimmy's mood is lifted as he gets to have some company to fill the long and lonely days. When Bimbo's redundancy cheque arrives Bimbo has an idea and the two friends embarked on an unlikely business venture.
The story isn't the fastest moving and it's a story about people rather than events. Doyle's comic touch livens things up nicely and I found myself laughing out loud often when reading it. There's a melancholy to it but this seems to blend nicely with the humour. A tale ultimately about a friendship between men that was a fantastic read. My one criticism is that the ending petered out a little and could have been better developed.
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