Booklist Reviews 2008 July #1
*Starred Review* The first in Roddy Doyle's blockbuster Barrytown trilogy (The Snapper, 1992; The Van, 1992), this collective coming-of-age story chronicles the brief career of a ragtag Dublin rock band. The cast of young characters interacts during a series of rehearsals that culminates in a short-lived but glorious stage career, performing Sam Cooke and James Brown classics to a hardscrabble crowd of peers who intuitively sense the power, relevance, and promise of the music. Doyle casts the embrace of African-American popular music (reborn here as "Dublin soul") as a sort of liberation theology that uplifts the needy and shows believers their higher selves. And, demonstrating both a keen ear for dialect and a sharp eye for local color, he lays the groundwork here for the deeper explorations that would follow in later novels (including the Booker Prize–winning Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha, 1993) of working-class people constrained by economic circumstance yet open to the full range of human emotions. Indeed, such scrutiny of the interior lives of the contemporary Irish, always underpinned by sympathy and humor, has been the hallmark of Doyle's rich career. And in The Commitments, this project sees its joyful, glimmering first light. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 1989 June #1
``Dublin soul'' is what the lads call it. Obsessed with James Brown, Percy Sledge and other rhythm-and-blues greats from across the ocean, young Jimmy Rabbitte organizes the ``world's hardest working band,'' made up of fellow Dubliners, and sets out to teach the town a lesson about soul. This cheeky first novel by a Dublin native, punctuated with Irish obscenities and quotes from soul classics, informed by righteous working-class anger and youthful alienation, offers the entertaining and insightful chronicle of The Commitment's rise and inevitable fall. In the process, impromptu sermons on the true meaning of soul are delivered in delightfully offhand fashion (``soul is lifting yourself up, soul is dusting yourself off''). But only a true-blue soul music fan will be able to appreciate the nuances and hear the melodies that resonate throughout the text, as The Commitments recite their slightly skewed versions of songs from the '60s (``when a ma-han loves a wo-man . . . he'll even bring her to stupid places like the zoo-oo-''). (July) Copyright 1989 Cahners Business Information.