Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. is unemployed, spending his days alone and miserable. When his best friend, Bimbo, also gets laid off, they keep busy by being miserable together. Things seem to look up when they buy a decrepit fish-and-chip van and go into business, selling cheap grub to the drunk and the hungry--and keeping one step ahead of the environmental health officers.
Set during the heady days of Ireland's brief, euphoric truimphs in the 1990 World cup, The Van is a tender and hilarious tale of male friendship and family life.
- Man Booker Prize for Fiction
The final novel of a trilogy about the working-class Rabbitte family of Dublin (following The Commitments and The Snapper ), shortlisted for last year's Booker Prize, demonstrates a brash originality and humor that are both uniquely Irish and shrewdly universal. Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. is without a job or a raison d'etre. Then his pal Bimbo gets sacked from his bakery job and the two use Bimbo's unemployment money to buy a ramshackle fish-and-chips van. In hilarious scenes that recall the hot-dog-wagon disaster in John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces , Jimmy and Bimbo prove as determined as they are inept at making a go of their business (the vivid descriptions of unhygienically fried chips and grilled sausages could keep readers away from street food for quite a long time). In Jimmy, a likable fellow who tries to do right by his colorful and uncontrollable brood, Doyle has created an authentic hero of modern-day Ireland. That the author, a 33-year-old Dubliner, is also a vastly successful playwright will astonish no one who has read his superb dialogue. Tremendous good fun, devoid of pretension, this novel invites comparison with the best of 20th-century Irish literature. Readers who missed The Snapper first time around can find it in a forthcoming Penguin paperback. (Aug.)
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July 31, 1993
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