Book review: The Guts

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Irish writer Roddy Doyle.
Irish writer Roddy Doyle.

The Guts by Roddy Doyle
(Jonathan Cape $37.99)

Watch out world - Jimmy Rabbitte is back. Remember Jimmy from The Commitments? He was the band's manager and creator, the big-dreaming young Irish geezer obsessed with making music, specifically soul, and none of that U2 bollocks. He was an entrepreneur back then, and he still is today.

It's hard to believe, but more than 20 years have passed since The Commitments came to life. Jimmy's 47 now; he has four children and runs a business, celticpunk.com, with his wife, Aiofe.

The backbone of Celtic punk involves hunting down old bands from the past, finding the artists, dusting them off and selling remastered music and, hopefully, a few concert tickets, to middle-aged fans nostalgic for their misspent youths. If it weren't for his recently diagnosed bowel cancer, Jimmy would be pretty happy with his lot.

The story kicks off in the pub (where else?) with Jimmy telling his dad (still a foul-mouthed boozer) about the cancer. To complicate matters further, as he's leaving the bar to go home and tell his wife about the cancer, Jimmy bumps into Imelda Quirke.

If you remember The Commitments, Imelda will need no introduction. She's still gorgeous and Jimmy, powerless to resist, is soon dabbling in a little textual intercourse.

One thing leads to another, as it so often does, and while Jimmy knows it's wrong, he can't help himself.

Despite all that's going on with the cancer, the chemo and the cheating, music is still the core of Jimmy's life and when he learns that the Eucharistic Congress is coming to Ireland for the first time since 1932, with its tagline of "Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell", Jimmy spies a business opportunity.

Winding up at Electric Picnic, Ireland's answer to Glastonbury, Jimmy's increasingly eclectic entourage finds redemption, reconciliation and the occasional revelation in between gigs, in cheap tents and not too close to the increasingly revolting portaloos.

You don't need to have read the other Barrytown books to dig The Guts, although it wouldn't hurt. At its core, this book is moving but not mawkish, funny, sometimes wistful and just grand.

Note: Be warned, the big C looms largely in this book, as does the little c, as in the C-word, so don't be shocked when it's said again and again and again - prudes, you have been warned.

- NZ Herald

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