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Roddy Doyle: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

The novel is set in Dublin in 1968 and is seen through the eyes of a ten-year old boy, Paddy Clarke. Doyle was also ten in 1968 but insists that the book is not autobiographical. In his earlier books – the Barrytown Trilogy – the prime focus was a plot-driven story about a working-class family surviving adversity, with humour a strong element in dealing with their adversity. In this book, while some of the same elements are to be found, plot is less a factor, as Doyle jumps around in time and gives us more an impressionistic portrait than in a standard plot-driven novel. There is a plot, which involves the break-up of the marriage of Paddy’s parents which, naturally, has a profound and very negative effect on Paddy. Doyle’s great skill, and clearly why the novel deservedly won the Booker Prize, is both to mix the plot elements and the descriptive elements as well as to show the point of view of a ten-year old boy. Of course, he engages in childish pursuits such as football and rough and tumble, but very much struggles with the adult world, not fully comprehending what is going on with his parents, and inevitably reacting badly to it. Doyle also cleverly shows the undercurrent of violence, from his father hitting his mother, to the effect on Paddy himself, as he becomes more violent with his schoolfriends and the children from the nearby estate. It remains his best work to date.

Publishing history

First published in 1993 by Secker & Warburg