Roddy Doyle •
Rory and Ita •
Roddy Doyle has done what many of us think about but never quite get around to. He sat his parents down and asked them question after question about their growing-up years, their married life, work, dreams, and sorrows. And he has the good sense to let them speak in their own voices here.
Rory and Ita is a wonderfully specific, compelling portrait of two working-class Dubliners and the world they know. The chapters alternate between Rory’s words and Ita’s, like complementary melodies. It’s easy to see where Doyle gets his gift for story.
Each nugget of recollection adds to the mosaic. Rory’s mother—a nondrinker—gets upset because no one brings her a glass of whiskey after his birth; his father “could knock a tune out of a zinc bucket.” As a schoolgirl, Ita puts ink on her legs to hide the holes in her stockings. Her aunt Bessie once announced to friends, “I know what adultery is. It’s watering the milk.”
Sometimes the pair tell conflicting versions of the same event, such as buying their engagement ring. Ita: “I knew what we could afford. It cost ₤17.10s.” Rory: “It was ₤27—a slight difference.” Ita: “It was ₤17.10s, but we told everyone it cost ₤27.”
It is Ita who has the last word. “The trouble with reminiscing is that, while events occur in chronological order, memories don’t. . . Last Sunday, at Mass, the reader spoke of Jeremiah, the prophet. He lost me there. I was back in Kate Dempsey’s little cottage, outside Kilmuckridge, in Wexford. Kate is blowing the fire with her bellows. ‘Jeremiah, blow the fi-ah—puff, puff, puff.’ Over and over we say it, both laughing until the kettle boils and I am sitting down to my special tea.”