Paddy Clarke ha ha ha

by Roddy Doyle

Paperback, 1995




New York, Penguin books, 1995


Patrick Clarke is a ten-year-old boy trying to make sense of his world. He is confused. His Ma and Da fight too much. School seems like a joke. And love, though it has a good reputation, seems pretty cruel. Paddy sees everything, but has trouble understanding it all. His story is an exuberant romp through the triumphs, indignities, and troublemaking detours of an Irish childhood. Written with warmth and wit by the author of The Commitments, which was made into a hit movie, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is the most moving story about the humor and challenge of growing up since Catcher in the Rye.

Media reviews

This must be one of the truest and funniest presentations of juvenile experience in any recent literature.
The novel's boldest feature is its infantile style of narrative.
Roddy Doyle's book has already dead-legged the assumption that grown-ups are more interesting. To borrow the formula: 'It was sad and brilliant; I liked it.'

User reviews

LibraryThing member kidzdoc
The winner of the 1993 Booker Prize, [Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha] is a novel narrated by Patrick "Paddy" Clarke, an 10 year old boy from Dublin, which is set in 1968. Paddy is tormented by his younger brother Francis, who he calls Sinbad due to his resemblance to the sailor, and is troubled by his strict school teacher, adult neighbors who do not appreciate his bawdy sense of humor or clever pranks (such as giving a dead rat a proper Viking funeral or stealing women's magazines from local stores), and especially his parents, whose fights are becoming more frequent and violent. Doyle expertly captures the voice, irrational beliefs, and attitudes of a young boy, who is always in minor trouble and engages in dangerous activities, but who is still a sympathetic and lovable character. I laughed at seemingly every other page throughout the first half of the book, as I remembered my childhood pranks and those of my friends (and enemies), and became choked up as the novel reached its inevitable conclusion.

This novel will resonate deeply with anyone who grew up in the 1960s, but everyone will recognize a bit of their childhood, good and bad, in the lovable and irrepressible Paddy.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
The narrator and title character of this story, 10-year-old Patrick Clarke, is a fairly typical Irish boy. He runs with a pack of boys, playing football and finding ample opportunities for mischief. He tolerates his younger brother Francis (nicknamed Sinbad), and barely pays attention to his younger sisters. Adults -- teachers, friends' parents, and his own parents -- are mysterious creatures. He understands little about the adult world, and cares little about it as well. That is, until the small cracks in his family structure widen into fissures, and then chasms. As the oldest child, Patrick assumes responsibility for maintaining a cohesive family environment, and believes he can influence and redirect the growing emotional tension between his parents.

For the first two-thirds of this book, Roddy Doyle places the reader right in the middle of Patrick and his friends, experiencing their hijinks, and seeing the world through their eyes. I found myself reliving my own childhood, when my friends & I explored the woods behind my house, and speculated (quite erroneously) about the actions of our neighbors. And then, Patrick becomes aware that his mother and father are not getting along. He doesn't understand why, and tries desperately to correct the situation. Because the story is told entirely from Patrick's point of view, many questions go unanswered and the reader is left similarly powerless. Doyle's technique was quite effective; I desperately wanted to take Patrick aside, explain what was happening in his life, and give him a big hug. This was a touching, poignant story.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
Forget your cheesy childhood nostalgia and read this book about children who can be awfully cruel and devise their own kid logic. One of the best books by one of my favorite authors.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
If anyone can answer my question, I'd love to know the answer. Why is it that books written by Irish authors or told about the Irish seem to consistently focus on a) drinking b) abuse c) poverty d) dysfunction???? Is there joy in Ireland?

While reviews are primarily positive about this book, for many reasons, I simply reacted to the fact that it was yet another angst filled tale of an Irish child witnessing cruelty, and acting out with cruelty, harming those around him, including his younger sibling.

It is 1968 and Paddy is ten years old, his father is drinking heavily, his mother is abused, his brother is a royal pain.

He and his band of friends roam the small town setting fires at building sites, entering forbidden areas while performing various and sundry cruel beatings and taunts to each other.

Written in a hard to follow stream of consciousness style, I had a difficult time absorbing the story line.

Simply stated, I didn't like this book and cannot recommend it.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
Oh man, the Booker prize and I just do not get along. I can appreciate that this was well done, but I've come to accept that I loathe books written from the perspectives of children. It's a cheap method of making tragedy more tragic and it annoys me immensely. (To Kill a Mockingbird is the exception to this.)

Pathos aside, this book is pretty much Angela's Ashes as narrated by Benjy from The Sound and the Fury. Just so you know.… (more)
LibraryThing member quondame
Why would you want to read a book that frames every adventurous episode in a childhood in a parents awareness of the danger instead of a child's feeling of power and magic? Patrick may relate the rather destructive romps through the suburbs developing around his, but the narrative never gets within his feeling of them, but retains an adult tone that forces the adult reader away from any fellow feeling arising from similar episodes. Patrick's brother has withdrawn for him and his awareness is overwhelmed by his parent's constant, singular, unresolving disagreement.… (more)
LibraryThing member kevinashley
A really great novel on a number of levels. Very evocative of childhood and more specifically of Dublin in the 1960s. I could hear my cousin's voices speaking the dialogue and it all rang true, as did the strangely disjointed child's perspective on time and narrative. Initially a very funny book, the transition to a darker and more painful story is very gradual and imperceptible, echoing the tragedy of what it portrays - lost innocence in one sense, and lost love.… (more)
LibraryThing member samfsmith
A coming of age novel, but of a ten-year-old boy. Doyle captures the manic immaturity of a child very well. It brought back memories, even though this novel takes place in Ireland. The superstitions in particular struck a chord with me - I remember thinking those same things when I was a kid.

It’s a series of short scenes, all in first person in the voice of a boy. He’s not a very nice boy either - he terrorizes his younger brother and his friends, engaging in acts of cruelty and viciousness that only kids are capable of. So Paddy Clarke is not very likable.

The novel is essentially plotless. A novel without a plot has to have something else to give it forward motion and to keep the reader interested. Doyle uses the incomplete understanding of Paddy as he watches his parents argue and his father become violent with his mother. Perhaps Paddy will turn out like his father, since he also seems to hurt those that he loves.

I have to compare it to Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. Atwood actually wraps the story of the young girl coming of age in a frame of the girl as an adult. In my opinion, a much better way to tell the story - it certainly kept my interest more than this novel, which tended to drag - I was tempted to skip ahead. If you have ever spent any time with a child of that age you will now what I mean - a little bit goes a long way.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Marvelous read. Roddy Doyle takes us inside the mind of a ten year old Irish boy in the 1960s, and anyone who has raised or worked with boys will know how great his representation is. I laughed out loud, and felt a wide range of other emotions as the protagonist deals with the social rules of his peers, the problems at home, and how to feel about his brother. Wonderful read!… (more)
LibraryThing member Noisy
I blame Umberto Eco.

First person narrative by a primary school child growing up in the 1960s. The child lives in an environment that is changing from a semi-rural town on the coast, into an urbanised community. Farms run by the same family for generations are being replaced by new housing developments; corner shops are clinging on, but you can sense that the threat of the supermarket is just around the corner. Aspiration is growing, along with access to consumer goods.

Irrelevant. All this is irrelevant. The child's-eye view is self centered; the changes are recognised, but only measured by the impact on my world, my horizons. How can I manipulate this situation to my advantage? Why are they doing this to me? If I do this I get a thrill, and recognition from my peers. There are stirrings of compassion (and experimentation), and fads come and go, along with alliances. And yet, measurements of one's peers are made using a yardstick that is largely based on the family. My da's got a car; his big brother has got this amazing toy; their da let's them play in every room of the house, rather than just the hall and bedroom; those lads come from a council house estate. Of course, such self-centeredness doesn't recognise cruelty, but then memories are short at that time of life. Aren't they?

I recognise so much from this tale. I had allotments at the bottom of the garden which stretched for miles until they were eaten up by the by-pass, and the new primary school, and eventually the new houses. I was sent to bed for watching the workmen constructing the by-pass rather than going straight home from school; I can point to the exact spot where my father let go of the back of my bike; I saw alliances made and broken.

I'm convinced that some of those experiences changed my life for ever, as they did for Paddy Clarke. Ha ha ha.

Roddy Doyle could have been relating a version of my childhood. It's uncanny. Accurate and consistent and poignant. I can understand why it won the Booker Prize. God, I wish I'd started reading real literature like this ages ago, instead of the science fiction and thrillers and detective stories that made up the bulk of my literary exploration. Hold on, I have read a bunch of Graham Greene, and I do remember standing in W. H. Smiths in front of the novel section, and dithering over which of the latest literary masterpieces to buy to start expanding my cultural horizons. Didn't I pick up Foucault's Pendulum?

I blame Umberto Eco.
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LibraryThing member iayork
Phenomenal: My second Roddy Doyle book and it was no less impressive than the first. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is the story of a 10-year-old boy growing up in Ireland. His experiences range from boyhood friendships to the classroom to his parent's increasing fights. Doyle is immensely talented and consistently manages to embrace his characters and represent them in a nearly too real fashion. Paddy Clarke not only feels like it's a story of a 10-year-old boy but is specifically narrated by a 10-year-old boy and by the end of the book one has to wonder "Doyle, who's he?" Doyle's narrative is addicting and moving and I had to have spent half the book asking people, "Do you remember when..." A definite must read for everyone.… (more)
LibraryThing member richardderus

Books written in the voice of a child had best use that technique for a reason...the child's perspective becomes wearing unless there is some very, very compelling narrative reason to make us follow a kid around without wanting to scream blue murder after a while.

I don't find any such compelling reason in this book. I don't find anything compelling at all in this book, as a matter of fact.

Ireland sounds damned good and dreary, and I am rethinking my desire to visit. I hate priests, nuns, and the Catholic Church with a vibrating Day-Glo orange passion. I'm beginning to hate all the fools and cruels who dare to become parents in Ireland, too. All the cheery Irish that exist appear to have moved here and taken up writing about the badness of Irish childhoods.

Blech. I don't want to talk about this book anymore. Read it at your peril. Why did I give it three stars? Because the writing, the descriptions, the sheer visual acuity of it makes anything less a dishonest rating, one based on my growing dislike of the country it's about, not a judgment of the book's merits.
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LibraryThing member yourotherleft
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha achieves the remarkable feat of both depicting a childhood at its most normal and humdrum while also drawing out something much more profound about being a kid and coming of age. While Paddy and his friends are lighting fires, stealing magazines, and torturing his younger brother in the most typical of lowgrade miscreant ways, Doyle does a remarkable job of capturing the casual cruelty of childhood, the bullying, the posturing. At times the book is so good at portraying these things that it's almost hard to read, despite its impressive quality.

Doyle nails the random transitions of his child narrator's mind, the relationships that skirt the emotional depth that an adult can see but a child cannot, and the affliction of younger siblings that sits side by side with love. Most impressive of all, however, is Doyle's depiction of Paddy's confusion when adult situations have outpaced his understanding of them, but only by the slimmest of margins, so that while he knows something is amiss he can't grab ahold of what, if anything, he can do to fix it. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is one of those books that, for lack of any sort of linear plot, would seem to be about nothing, but in taking a snapshot of a life, it ends up being about a little of everything.
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LibraryThing member dalzan
Paddy Clarke is ten in 1968.Paddy and his friends stage a Viking funeral for a dead rat, run the Grand National over the neighbors' hedged gardens, set fires at building sites, rob ladies' magazines (because they were the easiest) from shops, and torment each other, forming fluid alliances and watching for weaknesses. They are funny and frightening and unaware of both. The early part of the book roams from hair-raising adventure to adventure, incorporating casual cruelties and unheeded dangers with Sinbad, Paddy's younger brother. Then the ever-simmering tensions between his parents intensify. The mysterious fights, his mother's tears, his father's black moods, move into Paddy's life and begin to take it over. Paddy begins to see his little brother with new eyes - a person who can share the burden of fear and maybe help stop it from happening. But Sinbad is uncooperative. Too young or too-long tormented by his older brother, he refuses to even listen. Paddy is left to turn the tide by himself. He stays awake all night because if he does it will stop them fighting; he watches them and interposes himself between them, learning how to turn their anger. The last third of the book is filled with uncertainty. The sense that anything can happen at any time keeps the reader on tenterhooks, hopeful, like Paddy, that normality will return.… (more)
LibraryThing member Vivl
I have a sense, indeed I'm certain, that had this been the first Roddy Doyle I'd ever read I would have given it five stars. Was it the shock of the new that prompted me to award five stars to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, or is it genuinely the better novel? I find it hard to judge. And is it a bad thing that I find Roddy Doyle's writing so good in general that I can't give top marks to a book that I would nonetheless describe as stunningly good, just because it falls a shade short of some of his other writing? And does it really matter? (I somehow doubt Roddy Doyle is watching my LT reviews with baited breath and becoming downhearted at the missing 1/2 a star.)

Through Paddy's wandering child's mind, the reader is drawn into small town/outer suburban late 60s Ireland. It's not a fun place, although fun ("ha ha ha") is to be had from time to time, and Paddy is certainly not a perfect little boy: he's downright horrid a lot of the time, but that's reality for you. I mention his character flaws only because some readers found they did not like this book because of them, but they are, to my mind, an integral part of the no-holds-barred honesty of which Roddy Doyle is a master. He is not a teller of fairy-tales.

Despite this darkness, I feel genuine empathy for this strange, funny and sad little boy, desperate for his Ma and Da, both of whom he loves, not to split up. I wish him well.
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LibraryThing member marysargent
Wonderful. Ten year old Irish boy in the 60's. I've never read a book about childhood like it. "never lets the reader glimpse the adult lens filtering his hero's thoughts." Sad. Funny. Absolutely not sentimental.
LibraryThing member katydid-it
A view into the mind of a 10 year-old boy - all his hopes, adventures, friendships, and fears. In a world where the us vs them is kids vs adults, Paddy's voice will bring you back to what it was like to be a child on the verge of adolescence when it was far more important to be cool in front of your friends than in front of the opposite sex. His incites into the relationship dynamics of his neighbors, group of friends, with his brother, and of the dissolving marriage of his parents are sometimes skewed by his limited understanding due to being a kid.

In this novel Roddy Doyle excels. As we grow up, it's often too easy to forget the pains and joys of childhood - Doyle brings them into sharp focus with Paddy Clarke.
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LibraryThing member Joles
I didn't really like this book. I didn't hate it, but it didn't do anything for me.

I didn't really relate to the character as much as I tried.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
A delightful, moving story of childhood told in a narrative style that at times is almost stream of consciousness, and yet never bewildering; lyrical and lovely, not a bit sentimental; it touches the frightened child that still lurks in my subconsciousness somewhere engaged in the kind of magical thinking that promises "If I stay awake all night, it will keep this bad thing from happening". I thought the ending a bit weak, if inevitable. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member Oreillynsf
Paddy's youthful devilish nature and his well developed sense of humor belie the emotional struggles he goes through as his parents divorce. Once again, Roddy Doyle was able to capture maginificently real dialogue and childhood thought processes in a story within a story that demonstrates his skill as a tremendous talent. You know the kid that says the f bomb and retains has urchin-like affable appeal? The one that commits petty crimes but is just too marvelous to be really angry with? That's Paddy, and you'll laugh and cry along with him throughout this short book. While Paddy is absolutely the star, I also loved his Mammy - in just a few words Doyle gives us a picture of a woman struggling to come into her own.… (more)
LibraryThing member msjoanna
Roddy Doyle does a tremendous job capturing the inner world of a ten-year-old. Though nothing particularly dramatic happens in this book -- no deaths, no world events, no grave illnesses -- the character's monologue completely enthralled me. The story jumped from anecdote to anecdote without following strict chronology or chapter breaks, but the character's voice was strong enough to carry the narrative forward.… (more)
LibraryThing member redheadish
Paddy Clarke is definately totally screwed up kid who seems to right himself by the end of the book. I was totally inscensed by the wicked things he and his friends did, and of course Paddy thought it was Brilliant! Thank goodness he wasn't my kid! I was also very annoyed by the writing style as if it were childlike sentences all the way through the book written by someone with ADHD! I only finished it to see what actually happens to Paddy....but it was interesting to say the least and had quite a few laughs. It took longer to read because my heart wasn't in it like others I have read so I went back and forth wishing I could sit long enough to finish it.… (more)
LibraryThing member krizia_lazaro
At first I did not get this book. It was a disconnected narrative of a 10-year old boy who loves to beat up people. In fairness, the book improves toward the end but still I did not get the point. I don't know how people at the Booker choose their winners. Maybe because it has a different and unique writing style and format. 2 stars and additional 1 star for the effort.… (more)
LibraryThing member Mdshrk1
This one was hard for me to keep straight, only because I was reading "Angela's Ashes" at the same time. Keeping those Irish kids straight was hard.
LibraryThing member kristenn
Read this on an airplane 3 months ago and then forgot about it, so I don't recall many details. What I do recall is that I didn't care for it and was very disappointed. I've enjoyed quite a bit of Doyle's short stories and this one has a great reputation. On the other hand, I'd tried reading it once before and set it down for about five years. Mainly, this book made me really dislike young boys and want nothing to do with them. Which is a new feeling for me. But they were just horrible. So Doyle was vivid -- I'll give him that. But separate from disliking the main characters so much, the plot tended to drag and repeat itself and regularly lose my interest. It also didn't help that I loathe bathroom humor and you can't have a realistic 10-year old without it. That part obviously isn't the book's fault. Oh well.… (more)



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