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The Van by Roddy Doyle
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The Van (1991)

by Roddy Doyle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Barrytown Trilogy (book 3)

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English (7)  French (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
The Van by Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle's wonderful Rabbitte family saga—known as the Barrytown trilogy—concludes in [The Van]. Jimmy Rabbitte Sr and his good friend Bimbo Reeves go into business selling fish and chips out of an old van. It's about love, loyalty, sharing, trusting, working yer arse off, dealing with both setbacks and success. This novel is longer that the trilogy's first two, but it shares their attributes.

The setup is this. Jimmy Sr is out of work. He is a plasterer, a master of the finish coat, the embellishments, the details. Builders are cutting their costs using sheetrock instead of multiple coats of plaster over lath. Jimmy is expendable to the builders, but not to his family. His income lost, the family is paring back, way back. Jimmy no longer meets "the lads" for a pint every evening. The days are long and he can't find productive things to do. He cares for his granddaughter, Gina, who was born in the previous book, [The Snapper]. But he's bored, ashamed, depressed.

One day he does meet the lads, and when he arrives, Bimbo is crying. He can't draw out an explanation. Finally, Bimbo says:

--I got a bit o' bad news earlier…It knocked me a bit.

…Bimbo's parents were already dead. Jimmy Sr knew that…Maybe Maggie's mother had snuffed it but—Bimbo was a bit of a softy but he wouldn't break out crying in his local for Maggie's mother; she'd been as good as dead for f*ckin' years. One of the kids—

Oh f*ck he wished Bertie was here.

Bimbo spoke.

--I was let go this mornin'.

--Wha'?

--Let go. ---I'm like you now, Jimmy, wha'. A man o' leisure.

One big difference for Bimbo is that he gets a one-time payment (like severance, I think). But like Jimmy Sr., he's unhappy in his idleness. The sudden absence of "the chipper van" from its usual spot outside a local pub, prompts Bimbo to ask Bertie, another of the lads, who's always got something to sell.

---Yeh wouldn't have a chipper van to sell, I suppose…would yeh, Bertie?

---Wha' abou' a Mister Whippy one? Bertie asked Bimbo. ---I think I could get me hands on one o' them.

---No, said Bimbo.

---You've your heart set on a chipper one?

---Yeah. ----Not really; just if yeh see one.

Not long after, Bertie tells Bimbo and Jimmy Sr that he wants them to see something. It's a derelict van.

It was filthy. He'd never seen anything like it. They walked around it. It was horrible to think that people had once eaten chip and stuff out of this thing; it was a f*ckin' scandal. There was no way he was going to look inside it…

Bimbo looked excited and disappointed, like a light going on and off. Jimmy Sr looked at the van again.

Ah Jesus, the thing was in f*ckin' tatters. The man was f*ckin' mad to be even looking at it. He wouldn't let him do this.

But of course he does, and he even helps. They install the wheels and tires, getting it off the blocks that have supported it. It's got no engine, so it has to be towed to Bimbo's place. It has to be degreased and scoured and cleaned outside and in. It's got no electricity, of course, and no running water. The fryer and grill use bottled gas. Once the van is as clean as they can make it, they tackle the provisions, learning how best to cut and stockpile chips, how to batter the fish.

Although Jimmy Sr has no money to invest, Bimbo offers him a half interest in the new business. Therein will lie the rub. Almost from the start, the business is a success. But as with Jimmy Jr's band in [The Commitments], success leads to petty jealousies and bickering and sulking. Rest assured that all works out, eventually.
  weird_O | Oct 17, 2015 |
This is one of those rare novels that's both superbly written and leaves you feeling warm, fuzzy, and full of good cheer. "The Van" relates the adventures of two lifelong friends who, when faced with some unexpected financial difficulties, start up a business venture. That's the short version: it's also a story about how the modern world -- and the money it often brings -- changed Ireland at the end of the nineteen eighties. Doyle's careful to note the technological and social changes that are happening around his characters and what that means for their way of life. There's also a bit of economic critique here: Doyle seems to be wondering whether friendship can really survive in any sort of plainly hierarchical economic arrangement. The center of the book, though, is the friendship that exists between Jimmy Sr. and Bimbo. I can't, right now, think of the last time I saw a friendship described in a novel that seemed so sincere and deeply felt. It's also worth reading "The Van" just for the prose: Doyle's an absolute magician with dialogue: the conversations here flow easily, freely, and hilariously. He's also unapologetically Irish: the book's full of marvelous slang and regionalisms that I'd never seen anywhere else, and Doyle, to his credit, doesn't condescend to his non-Irish readers by explaining every unfamiliar usage. All in all, an excellent read. Recommended. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Apr 17, 2015 |
Doyle's gift for dialogue and natural empathy makes this story of two friends starting a chipper van business rich and satisfying. You laugh, you cry, and you'll probably never eat anything from a truck again! This is the third book in The Barrytown Trilogy. While I liked The Snapper even better, The Van is definitely one of my all time favorite books. ( )
  Oreillynsf | Apr 22, 2010 |
Great film too ( )
  bluecat51 | Jul 6, 2008 |
hilarious, moving and you simply cannot stop reading. I love the vitality and love for family and sports in this book. ( )
  Rhapsody | Jul 8, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roddy Doyleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moppes, Rob vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This books is dedicated to John Sutton.
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Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. had the kitchen to himself.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Jimmy Rabbitte is unemployed and rapidly running out of money. His best friend Bimbo has been made redundant at the company where he has worked for many years. The two old friends are out of luck and out of options. That is, until Bimbo finds a dilapidated 'chipper van' and the pair decide to go into business...… (more)

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