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"Do heavy metalers eat chips?",
This review is from: The Van (Paperback)
When Jimmy Rabbitte's best friend Bimbo is made "redundant" at the Dublin company where he has worked for many years, he is devastated. Jimmy, who is also unemployed, offers a shoulder for Bimbo to cry on, and both agree that they will not work at McDonald's, no matter what. When Bimbo finds a dilapidated "chipper van," which they can fix up and then use to sell food at major football games, rock concerts, beaches, and other gatherings (though not horse shows because "those blokes only eat caviar"), the two go into business together, with Bimbo in charge, since he is the one who bought the van. Ignoring the health requirements and the required licenses, they drive to large gatherings all summer, sell their fish and chips and sausages, and then return home with their money.
Working together in a marginal business creates problems for the two "best friends." Hot-tempered Jimmy resents the fact that he has to take orders from Bimbo. Bimbo resents the fact that Jimmy is not patient with customers, and that he does not work as hard as he might. Bimbo's wife and Jimmy do not get along,and Bimbo is caught in the middle. And when the health inspector arrives, their friendship itself is at stake.
Set in roiling north Dublin, where humor and family togetherness are the keys to surviving the tumult of the neighborhood, the novel depicts real, working-class Dubliners leading real, hard-scrabble lives, often centered around the pub and sports. Dialogue and dialect make these characters come alive, and the relationship between Jimmy and Bimbo is depicted honestly. The third novel in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy, this is by far the most fully developed, with well drawn, well-developed characters, a vibrant setting, dialogue which ranges from hilarious to furious and sometimes even tender, and a plot with which everyone can identify.
Doyle has become a novelist in the course of writing these three books, rather than simply the creator of brilliant dialogue illustrating sketchy stories, as we see in the first two novels. His writing acquires greater depth here, and his roots in this neighborhood and his identification with it are obvious. The three novels, taken together, show the evolution of one of Ireland's fine modern novelists and presage Doyle's international success and his Booker Award for Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha in 1993, just two years after this novel was published. n Mary Whipple