I’m currently volunteering for a local domestic violence charity, and much to my delight, my trainer handed me a reading list during my first training session. I didn’t recognise any of the texts apart from this one. To be honest, it didn’t even occur to me that this book could be about domestic abuse.
This book is written by Doyle in the voice of Paula Spencer, a real woman whose family were the subject of an Irish documentary in the 90s. Throughout the novel, we learn of her upbringing, her marriage, her children, and the abuse she endures at the hands of her husband. We learn early on that Paula is no longer with her husband, and he died under quite violent circumstances.
I was fascinated by this book for numerous reasons. Paula’s unfiltered thoughts are riveting, and perfectly display the internal struggle that some abuse victims endure. She knows how bad the abuse is, but because people whom she is supposed to trust, such as her husband and her doctor, are ignoring her struggle, she thinks maybe the treatment she is receiving is “normal”. There is a heartbreaking passage where she swears she will tell a nurse what is going on, but only if she asks. But she doesn’t.
The book also makes some great points about the treatment of women in general, and the absurd expectations placed on young girls in particular. The paradox of hiding one’s sexuality, but being expected to be an object of sexual desire. As a relatively young woman myself, there is always some kind of war to wage in terms of what society expects. Whether it be physical appearance, career, feminism, marriage, family, etc etc. So certain sections of this book really spoke to me.
The book is beautiful written. Paula’s voice is so strong; it’s like she is sitting across from you, cup of tea in hand. The words flow with such a lyrical beauty, and loop with a dream-like quality. It’s a complete antithesis to the horror of the content.
This isn’t an easy read. It took me a couple of days to read and I pretty much always had a beer in my other hand. But domestic abuse is something that should not be taboo, and the more we talk about it, the more victims will be empowered to break away from the violence.