Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

by Roddy Doyle

Paperback, 1995

Call number




Penguin Books (1995), Edition: 4th, 288 pages


The 1993 Booker Prize winner. Paddy Clarke, a ten-year-old Dubliner, describes his world, a place full of warmth, cruelty, love, sardines and slaps across the face. He's confused; he sees everything but he understands less and less.

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
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and brilliant; I liked it.'
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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
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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
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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 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
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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 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 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
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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.
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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
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peers, the problems at home, and how to feel about his brother. Wonderful read!
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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,
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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.
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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.

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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 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
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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.
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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
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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 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
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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.
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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
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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 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
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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
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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.
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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
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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 TheAmpersand
It used to be said that children should be seen and not heard, and, as I've heard it, most pre-moderns assumed children were, after the age of seven or so, pretty much like adults, so it's good to remind ourselves that, in some ways, childhood was something that literature, and society as a whole,
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had to create and then discover. In "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" Roddy Doyle places everyday experiences of an ordinary Irish nine-year-old at the center of a novel, and, in doing so, gets an absolutely unforgettable character and a really good novel out of a rather unlikely source. Oh, and the Booker Prize, too, I suppose.

Doyle's always struck me as a very local writer -- he's not afraid to include the specifics of twentieth-century Irish life in his books and leave the reader to figure out the references, slang terms, and brand names -- but his take on childhood also seems wonderfully universal. Paddy's word is an energetic mixture of innocence and knowingness, bedrock certainty and amorphous fear, kindness and cruelty, feelings of helplessness and an urge for control. I'm sure that many readers will find themselves thinking, "I know this kid!" or even "I used to be this kid!" What I most enjoyed about "Paddy Clarke," though, was its willingness to present the adult world through a child's eyes. Paddy himself can observe that important changes are going on around him: his parents are fighting, the farms near his house are disappearing, and he and his brother are growing older. The terms he uses to describe these changes, and the details he notices about them, aren't the ones that the adults around him would notice, and in this way he's both more perceptive and less perceptive than they are. He provides startlingly clear descriptions of father's unhappiness, his mother's love, and his teacher's frustrations without being quite aware of the implications of what he's describing, or that he's describing anything noteworthy at all. "Paddy Clarke" is a wonderfully natural performance, and Doyle, to his credit, presents Paddy's viewpoint without providing an ironic counterpoint or contrasting it with a more authoritative adult account of these events. Paddy stands more or less on his own here, and this childhood-specific sense of loneliness and defenselessness suffuses the entire novel.

This also means that, good as "Paddy Clarke" is, it's often sad, slow going; I found it an emotionally difficult read. I like to keep a good deal of distance from the characters between myself and the characters in the novels I read, and I seldom finish a novel with a specific like or dislike for a character. But I've met few literary characters that I've wanted help more than I wanted to help Paddy: the combination of his vulnerability and honesty is often hard to bear. This, of course, shouldn't be taken as a criticism, since it only goes to show what a marvelous job Doyle did with this novel. Recommended, but be warned: childhood may hurt even more than you remember.
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LibraryThing member lkernagh
This was a surprisingly good read for me. Doyle main character, and narrator of his story, is young 10-year old Patrick Clarke of Barrytown, North Dublin. Patrick lives with his Ma, his Da, his younger brother Francis (aka "Sinbad") and his two much younger sisters Catherine and Deirdre in a clean
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but otherwise nondescript home on an ordinary street.

In young Patrick, Doyle has captured the quintessential young boy living in a 1960's working class community. Like all young kids, he wants to be appreciated by his peers, lord it over his younger brother - when he isn't feeling protective of him - and struggles desperately to understand what is going in his family, in particular the raised voices he can hear between his parents late at night. Patrick grows up faster than any 10-year old should have to, and not by choice.

Parts of the story are touchingly amusing. I loved how Patrick was listening to the news on the TV with his Da about Vietnam and marveling at the Americans being at war with 'gorillas' and how interesting that the 'gorillas' had their own country and everything..... not a surprising thought process since most 10-year olds of the time period would know about the ape family but weren't really up to speed on the concept of 'guerrillas' in the warfare sense. Good "A-ha" light-bulb moment when Da grasp the confusion in Patrick's understanding of the news. Many of the stories and events told here resonate with authenticity and give voice to some of the toughness and struggles children and families in these communities experienced during the 1960's. My other half grew up in a predominately blue collar community in North Glasgow, Scotland and some of Patrick's experiences are stories I already know and understand from him.

The writing style and plot development take a little getting used to, although part of that could be my struggles to get inside the mind of a 10-year old and the language of Patrick and his friends, his "gang". It is a strong coming-of-age story that hit a chord with me of the antics of childhood and reminded me once again about the bullying that went on in the pre Social Media world of my own youth.

Favorite quote: "But I didn't. When I asked myself why I hated him, the only reason was that he was my little brother and that was all; I didn't really hate him at all. Big brothers hated their little brothers. They had to. It was the rule. But they could like them as well. I liked Sinbad. I liked his size and his shape, the way his hair at the back went the wrong way; I like the way we all called him Sinbad and at home he was Francis. Sinbad was a secret."

Overall, this one is well worth reading for its well written insights into family, community and peers from a young boy's point of view.
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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 Doondeck
Very Irish and very good.
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
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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.
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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
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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 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
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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.
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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
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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.
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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 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.


Booker Prize (Longlist — 1993)
Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 1996)




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