Image by Jon Kay/CC Licensed

Roddy Doyle was born in 1958 in Dublin, Ireland.  He attended St. Fintan’s Christian Brothers School in Sutton and later continued his education at University College, Dublin. For fourteen years he worked as an English and Geography teacher at Greendale Community School, in Kilbarrack, North Dublin. Since 1993 he has been dedicated to writing full-time. In 2009, he established a Dublin writing center, modeled off of San Francisco’s 826 Valencia Project, called “Fighting Words.” This center focuses on inspiring and nurturing children’s creative writing talents. He is married to Belinda and has two sons, Rory and Jack.

“Roddy Doyle achieved widespread recognition when his novel The Commitments (1987) was made into a motion picture in 1991. Doyle’s novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha won the Booker Prize, Britain’s highest literary award in 1993. This novel established Doyle as a leading comic writer, earning comparisons to Irish humorists such as Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan” (Encarta). Roddy Doyle is known as intensely private individual. His outlook on writing is, “If writers want to write, they want to write, and they should be left alone, I am no mentor and I don’t think I’d be doing anyone any favours if I said, – come on, lets do it this way – we’ll leave the cloning to the sheep” (Cullen).He has expressed an interest in protecting his privacy and has stated a preference for the quiet family life.  He hopes that his celebrity will not alienate him from his relationship with the North Dublin suburbs that have provided the inspiration for his body of work (Cullen).


“Doyle’s early novels rely very heavily on pure scene, in which dialogue rather than inner thoughts dominates” (Keen). His novels are rowdy and rooted in working-class experience. The first three, known as the Barrytown trilogy, focused on the Rabbittes, a family of eight whose lives are a mixture of “high comedy, depressing poverty and domestic chaos” (Turbide).  As Keen notes, “The Booker Prize-winning novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha explores with remarkable subtlety the development of a small boy’s interiority and empathy, as he simultaneously masters language and discovers a new understanding of pain. “The novel is the most commercially successful Booker winner to date and is now available in nineteen languages. Any translator would have a daunting job with Doyle’s work, though. Written almost entirely in dialogue, his books are full of “hilarious slang, colloquialisms, vulgarisms and cursing that is so vibrant and charged that it is almost musical” (Turbide). In the past, Doyle’s raw portrayal of working-class Ireland has received as much censure as praise in his native country. “I’ve been criticized for the bad language in my books – that I’ve given a bad image of the country,” said Doyle. “There’s always a subtle pressure to present a good image, and it’s always somebody else’s definition of what is good” (Turbide). The author’s own view is that his job is simply to describe things and people as they really are.  In Doyle’s world, the lives are tough,and the language is rough, but beauty and tenderness survive amid the bleakness (see also related Irish topics such as Brian Friel, Yeats and Postcolonialism).

Selected Author Publications and Movie Credits

  • Brownbread: And War, London: Penguin, 1993.
  • The Commitments, London, Random House, 1987.
  • The Commitments (film). Screenplay. Dick Clement. Dir. Alan Parker. Perf.  Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne and Angeline Ball. Beacon Communications, Dirty Hands Productions, and First Film Company, 1991.
  • The Dead Republic. London: Viking Adult, 2010.
  • The Deportees and Other Stories. New York: Penguin, 2007.
  • The Guts. New York: Penguin, 2013.
  • Oh, Play that Thing!. London: Viking Adult, 2004.
  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, London: Penguin, 1993.
  • Paula Spencer. London: Viking Adult, 2006.
  • The Playboy of the Western World. Adaptation by Adigun, Bisi and Roddy Doyle.  Perf. Eileen Walsh, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Carney, Phelim Drew, Joe Hanley. Abbey Theatre, London, 2007.
  • The Snapper, London: Penguin, 1990.
  • The Snapper. Dir. Stephen Frears.Perf. Colm Meaney, Tina Kellegher and Ruth McCabe. British Broadcasting Company, 1993.
  • A Star Called Henry. London: Penguin, 1999.
  • The Van, London: Penguin, 1991.
  • The Van. Dir. Stephen Frears. Perf. Colm Meaney, Donal O’Kelly and Ger Ryan. Beacon Communications, British Broadcasting Company, and Deadly Films, 1997.
  • War, Dublin: Passion Machine, 1989.
  • The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, London: Penguin, 1996.

Works Cited

  • Foran, Charles. “The Troubles of Roddy Doyle.” Saturday Night 111.3 (April 1996): 58-64.
  • Keen, Suzanne. “Irish Troubles.” Commonweal 123.17 (1996): 21-23.
  • Turbide, Diane. “Dublin Soul.” Maclean’s 106.35 (1993): 50.


Author: Andrew Keiler, Spring 1999
Last edited: May 2017

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