Doyle has become famous: the razor-sharp dialogue, the humour, the superb evocation of childhood – but this is a novel unlike any he has written before.

Smile

Smile is narrated by Victor Forde, who finds himself alone in middle age, seeking the solace of a pint in his new local, Donnelly’s pub. There he is interrupted in his reading by Fitzpatrick, who declares himself to be an old friend, although Victor is slow to remember him. Fitzpatrick, while uncouth, is affable and eager to talk, falling quickly into nostalgia with unsettling memories of their shared youth attending, like Doyle himself, a school run by the notorious Christian Brothers. “What was the name of the Brother that used to fancy you?” he asks, and his apparently innocuous question leaves Victor immediately hostile. “I wanted to hit him,” he tells us. “I wanted to kill him … I hated this man, whoever he was.”

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