Roddy Doyle was born in Dublin in 1958 and saw his first novel, "The Commitments", published in 1987. It was later adapted for the big screen, a version that saw Star Trek's Colm Meaney and a very young Andrea Corr among the cast. "The Van" was first published in 1991 and is the final book in his "Barrytown Trilogy". It was also nominated for that year's Booker Prize.
The book opens in late 1989, and there have been a few changes in the Rabbite house since "The Snapper". Jimmy Jr has now moved out, and is living with his girlfriend Aoife, in Clontarf. (He took his video recorder with him, but still calls round regularly to get his washing done). Leslie, on the other hand, has disappeared - to England, Jimmy Senior suspects - having fairly consistently got himself into trouble. The remainder of the family still live at home - including Sharon and her daughter, Gina. Darren is currently studying for his Leaving Cert and should do well, while the twins are rather sneakily learning how to smoke. Veronica, the mother of the family, is taking a couple of Leaving Cert subjects at night class. Jimmy Senior, on the other hand, has lost his job - and he isn't coping too well with being unemployed.
Jimmy has, more or less, learnt to put the day in - he spends quite a bit of time in the library (he doesn't think much of Alexandre Dumas) and the pitch and putt course (his game has improved dramatically). He has, understandably, had to cut back on his time in the pub...however, he misses the company of his friends more than the beer. With his self-esteem tumbling, there's an occasional flash of anger and he even starts eying up the younger ladies. Jimmy's best friend, Bimbo, then loses his job at the bakery. It's not something Jimmy is exactly happy about - or, at least, so he tells himself - but Bimbo's company brightens up Jimmy's day. However, when Bimbo uses part of his redundancy payment to buy a fish and chip van, Jimmy is brought in as a partner. It could just bring back Jimmy's self respect - though they do say its a mistake to mix business and pleasure.
A very enjoyable, easily read book - and one that generated a touch of nostalgia. The chip van made a fortune for the partnership during the 1990 World Cup - ah, the memories ! - and thirtsomething still on television. While the language is (authentically) 'colourful', it's generally a good-natured book and (despite Jimmy's troubles) there's plenty of humour. Well worth reading.