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This is a review of the 2002 book "Rory & Ita" by author and playwright Roddy Doyle. The book is actually the story of his parents' lives, firstly listened to and notated by Roddy their son, then compiled into more or less chronological order each parent narrating a chapter each. I have enjoyed many books by Roddy Doyle so felt compelled to read Rory & Ita as it commended their ability to recall a lot of detail in their lives which paved the way for a great autobiographical read.
In the foreword, Roddy makes the promise up front that the book is not about himself and he will not indulge his own memories of family life in the book. He really does stick to that too. His birth is noted alongside those of his siblings and that is really all that is mentioned about Roddy in the book. The rest is a fascinating family history covering the past and present of Rory and Ita.
There is a fair amount of hardship suffered by the couple in the book, the couple having lived through the wars and rationing but never do they complain about this. They remember high days and holidays and mainly the good stuff and don't dwell on the bad things that happened.
I really enjoyed reading about Rory's career in the printing industry. He goes into great detail of his training and employment and it really did make interesting reading. Alongside the high jinks, tricks, jokes, poker games and strike action he made his work come to life.
Their courtship is touching too. Both are young when they meet at a dance and although they met other people prior, they were both sure of their relationship being long term from an early stage. Rory meets Ita when he is drunk and quickly realises that this won't impress her so he makes an early exit after spotting her and finds her again the next week a much more sober man.
The couple have an amazing memory, remembering every purchase for their first house together and a small dispute about how much Ita's engagement ring cost. (It was £17 but they told everyone it was £27!) so both sides of the story got told.
A political undercurrent runs through the book, which is true to Roddy Doyle's other books and does actually have a huge influence on the family and their beliefs.
It is not until both her parents (Dad and Step Mum) are dead that Ita finds out more information about her mother's family. Her mum died when she was three so she has precious little memories and one photo to remember her by. Her father would not speak about her after her death and Ita and her siblings dare not ask so she pieces together the family history through some letters she finds in her father's desk. To her delight she is reunited with cousins that live in America and they are able to give her the true sense of family she craves that she never really had as a child.
The book was a great account and a wonderful tribute to Roddy Doyle's parents. The attention to detail makes it interesting to read and it really is about how normal people lived who were born in the 1920s. A lot of the text is supplemented by asterisks at the bottom of the page with further explanations and sometimes I wished this could have been incorporated into the text as it stilted the reading flow a little but I can't be sure how closely Roddy Doyle was trying to stick to his parent's first-hand accounts so perhaps they were his editorial additions and kept the main page true to the original accounts.