Charlie Savage is a Dublin man, a father, a husband and a grandad. The landscape of Ireland is changing around him with the rise of Trump, the popularity of social media influencers and the fact that he now groans when he stands up and stretches; stretching the legs and the arms at the same time is not always possible after a certain age. He shouts at the radio, at the Angelus, at Pat Kenny and at Joe Duffy. He complains so emphatically that his daughter creates a social media page called The Shouter where he becomes an overnight shouting sensation.
When Leo Varadkar announced that he was working for the people who get out of bed in the morning, Charlie Savage responded from his kitchen ‘I’m staying in bed till the next fuckin’ election’. Yet around Charlie is the soft pad of autumnal age, softening his abdomen. His fitness levels have deteriorated, his eating habits are only mildly nutritious and suddenly he is the subject of a family Whatsapp group. They are on a mission to rejuvenate him, to tog him out in undersized running gear while slurping organic sardines and sauerkraut, topped with whey. He is chuckling, they are crying, his health and evident ageing a source of real worry to them but a simple fact for him. Roddy Doyle shines a light on the plight of the Irish man in 21st Century Ireland. When faced with radio nutritionists, dieticians, pop-up fitness instructors and fun runs galore, we are remarkably more health conscious than we were twenty years ago. We are turning to our fathers, our husbands, our grandads and telling them to eat more protein, reduce their carbohydrates, reduce red meat and we are faced with a smirk when they humour us for a little while before eventually returning to their own way of doing things.
Charlie Savage lives for the women in his life; his daughter and his wife. They see him as a project. Together, they can reduce his boredom, increase his fitness levels, give him longevity of life when in reality he just wants to be in the pub on a Saturday watching football and having a pint with his friend Martin. Martin recently claims to identify as a woman, which Charlie Savage takes in his stride, as long Martin doesn’t turn out to be a lesbian woman, The ease at which Charlie receives this information shames our society into being not just more accepting but…nicer. Charlie doesn’t care what his friend identifies as, as long as he is his friend. We can learn an awful lot from Charlie Savage. Roddy Doyle writes in his flawlessly offhand way and from his writing emerges Charlie, solid and shouting. What also emerges with Charlie but unnoticed by us initially, is a scathing assault on politics, on gender equality and on the changing face of Ireland. Roddy Doyle reminds us of the foundations of the irish society; the tea, the family, the fun and the respect for one another. I laughed loudly at every single page and as a rule, I rarely find the obvious things funny. Roddy Doyle is already a master so I was never likely to criticise this book but he has reminded me of what is important, he has reminded me to take five minutes sometimes and he has reminded me to laugh.
(c) Dymphna Nugent
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