The Deportees

Issue section: 
(319)

Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Cape, £16.99

Roddy Doyle's great strength is his ability to get inside his characters' shoes. This new collection of stories, some in several episodes, is no exception.

In The Pram we see working as a nanny for a rich Dublin family through the eyes of a young Polish woman, or, in New Boy, a Nigerian boy's first day at a new school. The theme of all the stories is immigration.

Doyle has touched on the issue in his last book, Paula Spencer, but these stories result from his relationship with Metro Eireann, a magazine written by and for immigrants in Ireland. He volunteered to write for them and ended up writing an original story every month.

As with any collection there is some unevenness but he writes with such compassion and interest in the lives of ordinary people, exploring and celebrating the struggle and humour that is a feature of everyday life, that his humanity shines throughout.

As always dialogue is central - in Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner a loving dad strives to do the right thing and not be bigoted when his daughter brings home a new friend.

Black Hoodie had me laughing out loud on the bus. A white boy and his black girlfriend do a school project to show that shopkeepers lose money because they stereotype black people - the security staff follow the pair around while another friend (a white boy in his brother's wheelchair) shoplifts with abandon... Great stuff.