October 22, 2016

Book: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:06 am

This book shows why Roddy Doyle can justifiably claim to be one of the best chroniclers of life in Dublin as it is. This is one of his best books. He is known for his Barrytown Trilogy and also for image.jpg, all of these good books, but I think this takes the cake.


The mix of humour and pathos is a combination that the author uses expertly, moving you to burst out laughing one minute and have your heart strings tugged the next. Let us look at the story.

Kevin and Patrick Clerk (the ‘Paddy’ of the title)  are friends – they are young boys – and Kevin  has a little brother called Sinbad (Francis, really). They have teachers who are partial to some boys. Liam, another boy in class soiled himself one day.


Kevin and Patrick pretend people are chasing them and leave Sinbad behind. They try to put lighter fluid in his mouth and try to burn it to simulate the fire breathers. This has the classic feel of a small town Irish boy group trying out various stuff and is really in line with Roddy’s other great books. You are horrified at the casual cruelty of boys to boys but do recognize it as a feature of the seventies life in small towns all over the world.


Nice intro into the school and all the mischief the kids get up to. How the teachers treat them, how they play with the peeling paint in the portacabins, all of it is very entertaining and rings true at the same time.

Just small touches like how he is careful cleaning the house and how he hides sandwiches under the desk until the pile  grows so big that the ink bottle wobbles, how his dad gets mean because Sinbad will not eat his vegetables, how the Jesus in the picture “with his heart showing” has his head tilted ‘a bit like a kitten’ are all hilarious and interesting. A true kid’s perspective of life is what you get.


And who knew you can make a school medical examination so interesting? And the mix of deep religiosity with the childhood natural instinct of mischief make for lovely combinations.


The kids speculate that a couple in the neighbourhood are childless because “she ate them”.  They have races through neighbour’s carefully tended flower gardens. The object is to escape before they are caught but also make so much noise that the slowest of the group does get caught!


Lovely little pieces like the above are strewn all over the book. It is simply a pleasure to read.


Paddy’s attempts to not eat lettuce (quoting an African who ate a leafy vegetable and got a severe stomachache that, upon being operated, turned out to be lizards in the stomach hatched out of the eggs in the lettuce are scenes that make you laugh out loud. Also the game where the Lord punishes each with a painful poker strike in the back when they given themselves vulgar names – titties, mickey and the worst of all, fuck – is interesting.


There are heart wrenching scenes where the da and ma are fighting and he is very puzzled.


Ending is very touching too. A great read, all in all.




  • – Krishna

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