From the author of The Commitments comes a breathtaking glimpse into the inner life of a boy forced to leave behind childish things. 2 cassettes.Amazon.com Review
In Roddy Doyle's Booker Prize-winning novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha,an Irish lad named Paddy rampages through the streets of Barrytown with a packof like-minded hooligans, playing cowboys and Indians, etching their namesin wet concrete, and setting fires. Roddy Doyle has captured the sensationsand speech patterns of preadolescents with consummate skill, and managedto do so without resorting to sentimentality. Paddy Clarke and his friendsare not bad boys; they're just a little bit restless. They're always takingsides, bullying each other, and secretly wishing they didn't have to. Allthey want is for something--anything--to happen.
Throughout the novel, Paddy teeters on the nervous verge of adolescence. Inone scene, Paddy tries to make his little brother's hot water bottleexplode, but gives up after stomping on it just one time: "I jumped onSinbad's bottle. Nothing happened. I didn't do it again. Sometimes whennothing happened it was really getting ready to happen." Paddy Clarkesenses that his world is about to change forever--and not necessarily forthe better. When he realizes that his parents' marriage is falling apart,Paddy stays up all night listening, half-believing that his vigil will wardoff further fighting. It doesn't work, but it is sweet and sad that hebelieves it might. Paddy's logic may be fuzzy, but his heart is in theright place. --Jill Marquis ... Read more
Customer Reviews (109)
The triumphs and losses of childhood
The first half of this novel captivated me. In Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Roddy Doyle demonstrates a marvellous ability to remember what it was like to be a ten-year-old boy. In that respect, the novel is brilliant. I would describe it as a fictional memoir of childhood written from a child's point of view. The novel is composed of a series of literary sketches; often seeming to follow no particular order, as if they spontaneously arose in Doyle's mind and then appeared on the page like happy chance accidents. This in itself creates a wonderful, free spirited, childlike mood.
The second half of the novel dragged on a bit. A narrative became apparent: Paddy's parents were fighting frequently and it was obvious that their marriage was breaking down. Their ultimate separation didn't come as a surprise; I felt as though I was just waiting for the inevitable to happen.
The greatness of this novel is Doyle's astonishing ability to catapult the reader back into the triumphs and losses of childhood, how important it is to be loved and wanted, how painful is the loneliness of a child.
Get Past the Format and Enjoy the Story!
This is a story about 10 year old Patrick Clarke, his family and friends.The entire book is totally stream of conscious from Paddy's point of view.The boys in his crew terrorize Barrytown and each other!He also picks on his younger brother Francis - calling him Sinbad.Paddy's parents fight a lotand we find out, in the end, that the title of the book comes from his father's deserting the family and the boys chanting "Paddy Clarke, ha ha ha, he has no da, ha ha ha."
The book is truly entertaining - there is no question on that end.It is also extremely hard to read in any broken-up setting (commuting, a little each night, etc.) because there are no chapters, no breaks and no natural flow to the plot.This also helps the credibility level as 10 year olds really act and talk like this.The insight might be lacking, but it frees the mind to imagine background to the characters as well as a future for each of them.
Scenes from a childhood
- Your daddy has a better job than Ian's daddy, she said. Then she said - Don't say anything to Ian. Sure you won't.
The McEvoys lived on our road.
- My da has a better job than yours!
- He does not!
- He does so.
- He doesn't.
- He does.
This short scene clearly points the spirit of childhood that covers the whole "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha", a novel - more a series of vignettes - that gave Irish Roddy Doyle the Booker Prize in 1993. The title character is a young lad growing up in Dublin circa 1966. The narrative follows his daily routine at home, at school, with his parents and siblings and friends.
Paddy is as innocent as rebel - that kind purposeless rebellion typical of kids - and is always up to a soccer game or a fight. He is not the best at school, but not the worst. He is just average. His confusions and sense of humor reminds of French Petit Nicholas - replete of innocence, naïve sarcasm and black humor.
Doyle manages to make a deep sincere portrait of childhood. And it is as touching as funny. At the same time, the writer avoids every cliché typical of this kind of novel - narrated by a child while coming to age - or of the time - middle 1960's. And it is a relief. There isn't child abusing, neither alcohol abusing. His parents, teachers or acquaintances are just regular people.
This simplicity is what makes the book extraordinary. But don't get wrong. Being simple doesn't mean being shallow or irrelevant. The beauty of "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" lies in its honest portrait - maybe there is some autobiographical things throughout the narrative - of a regular childhood. Doyle is able to make us laugh and cry - and all the laughs and tears are honestly conquered.
Kid's Eye View
At one point in this rambling yet enveloping running narrative of seemingly isolated sequences from a ten-year-old Irish boy's life, we join Paddy Clarke as he recalls even younger days, sitting under a kitchen table for the pure joy of his closed-in surroundings.
"I saw things. Balls of fluff, held together and made round by hair, floated on the lino [linoleum]...The lino was nice on my face. The air wasn't alive like outside, beyond the table; it was safe. It had a smell I liked. My da's socks had diamonds on them. I woke up once and there was a blanket on top of me. I wanted to stay there forever."
Paddy doesn't. He gets taller instead, too big to fit under a table. By the end of the short remembrance, he's dismissing the whole thing as "stupid".
The whole of Roddy Doyle's "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" is like that, the protagonist experiencing the joy of small moments later left thoughtlessly behind. It's a world all of us go through but few remember, let alone capture, as well as Doyle does here. Doyle's short, chapterless sections antically hop from anxieties at home to the overbearing discipline of a hated teacher to games played by Paddy and friends in their rapidly developing Barrytown neighborhood. I enjoyed how the author cosmically sends up Paddy's childish concerns without ever intruding the slightest hint of an adult sensibility.
If only it had a plot.
Real life is plotless, of course, and that extends to childhood. Things happen, lives change, people adjust, and those of us left move on. Most novels however, nearly all but this one in my experience, present some plot focus, giving a reader something to grasp onto. Doyle challenges us this way, taking more than half the book before any such focus reveals itself, and when it does (trouble between Paddy's folks), it takes place almost completely out of Paddy's ken. He only senses something's wrong, and sleeplessly imagines himself responsible.
Paddy starts out a pretty unlikeable character, Doyle here as elsewhere choosing reality over sentimentality. We open with him picking on his younger brother, Sinbad, a recurring motif in the book. Following the unprincipled example of his friend and neighbor Kevin, he steals, burns things, and bullies younger kids with no remorse or reason. One can see this changing over time as his parents' troubles and a more serious approach to his studies draw out a sensitivity in him, but he's rebellious throughout.
Doyle was known more for comic writing when he published this in 1994, and there are a lot of bits of recognition humor here, as when Paddy digests reports of U.S. soldiers fighting "gorillas" in Vietnam. Set in 1968, you have to negotiate timely pop culture references to things like the Monkees, the Man From U.N.C.L.E., Irish commercial jingles, and British soccer stars.
But nostalgia and funny business take a back seat to the emotional toll of Paddy's domestic traumas. Here I think the book didn't do enough. The parents are presented as decent people for the most part, though we get hints of something troubling about the father. He's a bit of a drinker and a bit of a hitter, though it's never clear what is happening. Of course this is how it happens for many ten-year-olds. But the overall rambling quality of Doyle's narrative rambles too much; by the end he presents a neat, tough conclusion that feels more abrupt than anything else.
Read "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" to rediscover a world you may have forgotten, through the eyes of a distinctive character who can't quite notice as you do the way it dissolves around him.
Booker-prize winning, and deservedly so.A remarkable journey into a child's mind.
This fantastic book well deserved to earn a Booker Prize.Doyle plumbs the mind of a small boy to a marvelous extent.We are transported into a boyishness of mind.Our protagonist's concerns become our own: his hopes, his fears, his moral dilemmas--all ring astonishingly true.And yet, this is no demeaning view of the small boy's mind.Though he is small he is working through the great difficulties of this world.The prose is delightful, gripping, and page-turning.The book sails along at the hands of a remarkably skilled author.Having just finished [Huck Finn], I am comfortably holding this book alongside that immortal classic.Though Paddy Clarke Ha Ha ha does not enter the greater terrain of his day (while Huck Finn is immersed in slavery), the book does deliver the mind of a child in a way that few books ever written have done.Indeed, we might fairly ask: has any book, ever written, so thoroughly and effectively transported the adult reader to the consciousness of a child?At the very least, that question can be asked.This book is a complete triumph.
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