Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

Language and character are the two doorways into Roddy Doyle's A Greyhound of a Girl. Mary is twelve, as cheeky as can be. Her mother, Scarlett, speaks in exclamations. Emer, Mary's grandmother, is close to death in hospital, but still cracking jokes. Mary's great-grandmother, Tansey, has decided to show up... even though she died when Emer was a wee girl. The older three are as tall and lean as greyhounds, and Mary shares the family resemblance. They embark on a road trip that is both literal and figurative, strengthening connections across generations.

The viewpoint shifts between the four. Tansey as a young wife lived in a farmhouse with a traditional thatched roof. "There were mice up in that thatch that had never seen the light of day. One of them fell onto Tansey's lap one night, and her sitting at the fire, trying to see the hole in a sock that she was darning. A tiny little lad, but all the same, it gave her a great big fright. The scream was out of her before she could call it back."

Tansey is a hoot, but my favourite is Mary. When she wants to show her anger but can't get a door to slam properly, she yells out the word "SLAM!" She visited her granny in hospital daily, even though the place frightened her. "Even the name, Sacred Heart Hospital, scared her a bit. The Sacred Heart, people called it. She's in the Sacred Heart. Mary imagined a huge bloody heart with a squelchy door that you had to squeeze through, and blood dripping from the ceiling."

The story is set in Dublin and on a farm near Enniscorthy. Funny that I'd never heard of Enniscorthy until recently, in Colm Toibin's Brooklyn. The Amulet Books edition of A Greyhound of a Girl has helpful maps on the endpapers.

A Greyhound of a Girl is a nonspooky ghost story about family relationships. The dialogue makes it especially attractive for an all-ages read-aloud.

No comments: