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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
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on 8 April 2009
This book was published in 1993. It described a few years in an Irish boy's life from around age 8 to 10 in the mid- to late 1960s, in his own voice.

I enjoyed most the way the novel showed the narrator's development -- in perception, use of language, self-understanding. From the beginning, when the only concern was the love of play, the daily explorations and sadistic competitions with friends and baby brother, and early role models like Father Damien and Daniel Boone. Simple joys like the smell of a mother's meal, a warm blanket at night, a compliment won from a father, and a shared laugh with parents. To the first bicycle, the growing love of sport, the radio and television, and inklings of the power of language, including swear words, of course. To the brink of adolescence, where the comforts of a stable home and simple friendships were left behind, and conflicted emotions had to be accepted. It brought back many memories.

For this reader, the story passed over too quickly the religious education of the day, which must have had more impact, as well as the thrill of going to the cinema and the first glimmers that there was more to kissing than at first seemed apparent. The story seemed to lose something of its focus and intensity after the first 100 or so pages and might've gained from some tightening. This at least was the impression I got from the author's style of moving rapidly from one scene and subject to another. Moving ending, though.

Excerpt near the beginning:

"Our names were all around Barrytown, on the roads and paths. You had to do it at night when they were all gone home, except the watchmen. Then when they saw the names in the morning it was too late, the cement was hard."

Later on:

"Sometimes, when you were thinking about something, trying to understand it, it opened up in your head without you expecting it to, like it was a soft spongy light unfolding, and you understood, it made sense forever . . . . Sometimes you gave up and suddenly the sponge opened. It was brilliant, it was like growing taller."

"I didn't listen to them. They were only kids."
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on 10 August 2001
I had only read one Roddy Doyle short story before picking up 'Paddy Clarke...', and now I'm addicted. Doyle manages to write so convincingly from the perspective of a ten-year-old that it's impossible to put this book down. It isn't just the language (and the use of native terms is only a small stumbling block), but he also captures the mannerisms and thoughts so accurately. What results is a book that reminds you of your own childhood, the fun things, the scary things and the incomprehensible things. Paddy's bewilderment at grown-ups behaviour is explained through the application of child's logic - he is forever asking "Why?", and never gets an answer.
The book has some hilarious moments, but never tries to be a comedy. It also has some tragic moments, which are treated lightly because of Paddy's minimal grasp of the adult world. He has many flaws which are obvious to the reader but hidden from his own view.
Possibly the best book I have ever read.
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on 28 September 2007
I found this book rather hard going to read as it seems to me very disjointed and doesn't flow well. The insights into childhood are great and the dialogue is cracking on the whole but somehow the lack of plot means that the book just doesn't get going. My least favourite of the Barrytown triolgy.
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on 1 January 2012
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle is an unusual, highly original account of life in an Irish Catholic household. Written from the point of view of Paddy, the eldest son, aged ten, of the Clarke family, it draws the reader through a particular experience of childhood.

There is a child's wonder at the new. There are strange facts about the world to be unearthed and challenges to face like a man. But when you are ten, there is also always the rock of parents, ma and pa, ma and da, mum and dad on which to rely. Their love for you and their constancy will always offer support and never let you down. Like God, they are not subject to question.

So when you do something that was not quite advisable, and as a consequence a window gets broken, or a plant uprooted or an ornament broken, there's recrimination to expect, of course, perhaps punishment to endure, but it will be fine in the end, because ma and da always make things happen that way. You can trust them, assume their interest, take them for granted.

And that applies even when you beat up your mate, and hit him just a bit too hard. You might say he fell, or stumbled and hit himself hard in an unfortunate place, let blood that spotted his shirt or came home crying in fright, but it would all be fine in the end. When you give your younger brother a dead leg just to keep him in his place, or declare war under the covers after bed time, or even when he messes his pants provoking the others to giggle and mock, there is always home waiting, where there will be safety behind the parental screen.

And when you pick a fight because someone says that George Best is not the best footballer in the world, that a teacher you like is a whore or a defenceless sibling ought to get punched, ma and da always step in, mediate, soothe.

Until, that is, you realise your da might not be telling the truth, until you realise that he is just another grown up, perhaps as inconstant and unreliable as all the others. And what about when your ma and da start to fight? The noises percolate through the wall from the other room. They can't be hidden. Well that's just called growing up, which is already happening, even - perhaps especially - to a ten year old. And then, of course, there will be adulthood, when everything will be different in a world where people don't fight, where there will be no conflict. This is Northern Ireland, after all.

Roddy Doyle's book is a delight. It takes a while to suspend the disbelief associated with becoming a ten year old, even longer to get used to the idea that little Paddy might have written it all down. But the mood and his character soon take over and draw us into a world as fascinating and as threatening as any experienced by an adult.
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on 5 January 2001
Having never read any of Doyle's novels prior to 'Paddy Clarke', I appoached this book with a certain naivety. I recall beginning this book on a crowded tube train and realising, almost immediately, that it was to be a novel of much depth and would require considerable concentration.
The tale is told by a ten-year-old boy called Patrick Clarke and is set, as you would expect, in Dublin. It soon becomes apparent that to successfully navigate this book you must first learn to appreciate some genuine Gaelic lingo. This doesn't present too much of a problem as the learning process only adds to the enjoyment of the book.
The account of Paddy's outlook on life conveys us back in time to an age when the world's greatest woes were classroom quarrels and would you make the under 11's football team this year. It's a truely nostalgic distraction from the troubles of adult life; it's the childhood we try to convince ourselves that we've left behind, but never leaves us fully.
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is both hilarious and painfully tragic. It's an artful mix of warm-hearted humour and the trials of family life. Brilliantly written, Doyle portrays Paddy's endeavours in an enchanting, captivating and, sometimes, blatantly painful manner. This makes a recipe for a novel you just can't put down and puts in perspective the things we truely need to cherish.
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on 2 January 2013
I had some problem with the absence of a plot in this book. The issue of Paddy Clarkes parents marriage doesnt really gain focus until well into the book. Up until then its just some days in the life of a 10 year old boy, but, I must say that in itself was funny and interesting at times. I especially liked Paddys thoughts on heaven and religion. He is no angel, which makes him all the more believable as an adventurous, curious and mischevious boy. Definitely will provoke memories of childhood! The more serious parts address domestic violence and alcoholism and these problems emerge as the book goes on.

Perhaps this slow paced revelation of the marriage problems, bit by bit, less subtly as time goes on, is supposed to mirror the actual marriage problems or simply convey the message that you never know what goes on behind closed doors. Either way, worth a read as its not too long a book and it definitely has some parts which will make you laugh and reminisce about childhood.
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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2011
This review is from: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Paperback)
Written from the perspective of a 10 year old boy, Doyle's writing throughout the book is in short bursts, talking about one thing then off on another. This very much emulates the way children's thought patterns jump from one thing to another.
I had to smile in some parts at the childish understanding of events and the way it evoked memories of my own play at a similar age.
Paddy's awareness of his parents quarrels and his struggling to stay awake to prevent them arguing was sad, as was his understanding of how events would pan out. His own long standing friendships seemed to come to an end at the same time as his parents, but his instinct to survive and the way his relationship with his younger brother Francis (Sinbad) developed seemed very true to life. One to read!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 December 2013
Roddy Doyle's Booker Prize-winning 1993 novel is a quite remarkable piece of fiction. Strangely enough 'fiction' could almost be regarded as something of a misnomer to describe what is (or at least appears to be) something close to autobiographical writing, filled with a vivid and intoxicating 'child vernacular', as Doyle's 10-year old Barrytown hero relates his tale of schooldays filled with pranks (thieving, smoking, etc) and officious teachers, together with an increasingly troubled home-life. Although I have read many infectious and evocative tales of childhood before, I don't believe any quite capture Doyle's uncanny depiction of how a child's mind works, flitting (mid-sentence) from one subject to another and conjuring up an imagination true to that most inventive (and uncertain) period of our lives.

Of course, given this milieu and Doyle's short, sharp writing style and focus on a series of vignettes, rather than a strong, single narrative, Paddy Clarke takes a bit of getting into, but for anyone interested in 'turning the clock back' and re-living their childhood, this is truly authentic and compelling stuff. Memorable characters include Henno (Mr Hennessy), Paddy's 'teacher oppo', who, although officious does not come across as unduly cruel, 'Corporation-house' i.e. council-house tough kid, Charles Leavy (whose toughness Paddy tries to emulate), younger brother Francis ('Sinbad'), who Paddy feels duty-bound - as younger brother - to victimise, and parents 'ma' and 'da', whose increasingly troubled relationship begins to be a source of worry for Paddy. The novel's autobiographical nature is reinforced by its (initial) time setting, 1968 (when Doyle would also have been 10-years old) - which also serves as the backdrop for some of the most memorable passages as Paddy and pals indulge in adopting the personas of the football stars of the era, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Johnny Giles, Eddie Gray and (the player everyone wanted to be) Georgie (or, as Paddy prefers, George) Best.

A nostalgia trip par excellence and one that comes highly recommended.
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on 29 December 2009
It is understandable why Roddy Doyle's fourth novel, `Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha', was awarded the 1993 Man Booker prize. Despite initially being a tale about a young boy's "fun and adventure" during 1960's Ireland, the novel expresses deeper meaning, conveying the drastic effect family life can have on a child.

The early part of the novel can seem confusing, with no clear chronological structure. In one paragraph, Paddy is being stung by stinging nettles - in the next, he is at home learning about fingerprints from his "da". Yet, do not let this dissuade you. After the first dozen pages, it is clear that Doyle mixes up time periods and key events - an effective technique that portrays the confusion of Paddy about his parents' deteriorating relationship. The lack of ordered structure only increases the empathy felt for Paddy in this moving story.

Despite addressing somewhat serious matters, Doyle includes snippets of child-like humor throughout, which will not fail to make you smile. Doyle's incorporation of humor will have you reminiscing about your own childhood memories - the games you played, the nicknames you made, and the adventures you had. He captures innocence in a way that will make you want to protect Paddy from the harsh realities of life, be his friend.

Whilst this is not necessarily an "I-can't-wait-to-get-home-and-read-it" book, it is nevertheless compelling when you do pick it up and start reading. Doyle involves the reader in Paddy's life, narrating it from his point of view, and allowing us to see his inner thoughts and feelings. The closer you near the end of the book, the clearer it is that Paddy's home life has changed him from a boy who was once scared of the dark, to one who, in "pitch black ... still wasn't scared". This is a novel that will certainly appeal to readers looking for an emotional escapade.
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on 13 February 2014
What a great read. A fabulous insight into growing up in the 1960s. It made me laugh out loud one minute and the next be sad at how cruel children can be. Not sure if I actually liked Paddy, but certainly gave me a lot to think about.
I would definitely recommend.
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