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Greyhound of a Girl Paperback – 7 Jun 2012
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About the Author
Roddy Doyle is the author of nine novels. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. His novels have been made into popular films, including The Commitments and The Snapper. He lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Mary, the main character talks in ways which sound cheeky so at the end she always says "I'm not being cheeky"
Scarlet, Mary's mum, always ends her sentences in !!!'s.
I highly recommend this book. Its full of ghosts, greyhounds and love
the community, the village. Children were not protected from birth or death, especially in country or farming communities
where such matters were daily occurrences.
Doyle's work has an instant Irish feel about it, born as he was in Dublin. His writing style relies very much on the vocabulary of his characters, using local slang and sometimes coarse language to convey the personalities of the people he writes about.There is always an authenticity to his work, which often deals with the uglier side of society whilst projecting the human side of the people in his novels.
'A Greyhound Of A Girl' is the first of his novels for children that I have read. The style is typical Roddy Doyle, but the language is softened in line with the reader age it is aimed at. I am uncertain of the age group this is written for, but I found it absorbing enough to read as an adult, dealing as it does with dark themes such as death, aging and regret. Yet through it all, there is a tenderness and understanding of unconditional parental love and the eternal impact it can have on each generation.
The main character, Mary, is 12 and struggling to come to terms with the departure of her best friend (she moved house) and the inevital death of her seriously ill Grandmother. When the ghost of her Great-Grandmother appears to her, she comes to realise that change and loss is a part of life, and that it is the everyday things we take for granted that can sometimes matter most.
The narrative moves back and forth through time, each part highlighting one of the 4 main characters and their experience of life. At times funny, and other times moving, I found it to be both sensitive and insightful....and I would certainly recommend it both for older children and adults too.
Mary, not far off being a teenager who is feeling bereft after her best friend moves house to another part of Dublin;
Mary's mother Scarlet who talks in exclamation marks, "Even your whispers end in !!!s"
Emer, Mary's grandmother, remembering how her own grandmother used to 'worry the food' at the range and
Tansey, Mary's great-grandmother who full of vibrancy and life succumbs to the flu at the age of 25.
Doyle has a talent for voicing very realistic children's thoughts. He brings the story alive with his descriptions of the farmyard, the broken 'hegg' and the tender relationship between a child and her mother and grandmother.
It was an interesting idea and one that might well appeal to anyone who is missing a loved one. Although the message was that everyone is 'somewhere' and that death itself necessarily 'the end' the book was pleasantly lacking in religion as an explanation.
The writing is simple and direct, dealing with the big themes of life - love, loss and death - with humour, and without sugary sentimentality. This book could easily have got mawkish, and it is one of its strengths that all life changes - death, puberty, friends leaving - are dealt with in a very matter of fact way. The humour is subtle, the language fresh and up to date and the characters charming.
This book, although aimed at young teenagers, has a lot for adults to enjoy and take away. If a young person you know is struggling to come to terms with a bereavement, it would be a good book to recommend, but it is much more than an "issue" book.
I read an earlier kids' book by Doyle a few years ago ('Wilderness!') and loved it. However, I really didn't enjoy 'A Greyhound of a Girl' very much at all.
You see the thing for me was that while I kind of liked the characters, the relationships were perhaps just a touch too stable. There isn't really any conflict in the novel, and consquently there is very little tension. It is a slim volume, but really it could be a lot slimmer as while lots of the clever multiple narrative adds flesh to the characters, it gives little to the reader.
The book does pick up a little in the last twenty or thirty pages, but overall there is just too little going on for this to be a good read.
Read 'Wilderness!' instead.
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