Sadly, I’ve read only a few Booker Prize winners. Out of the 45 winners, I’ve read just Disgrace, Life of Pi and The English Patient. Of the short-listed nominees, I’ve done only a little better with Under the Frog, A Bend in the River and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake under my belt. But if I wanna read all or even most of these acclaimed novels, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Fortunately, I can now scratch one of these off my list. Inspired by Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge I finally got around to reading Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
Published in 1993, it went on to win that year’s Book Prize, beating out five other short listed nominees including Under the Frog and Remembering Babylon. Set in Ireland during the late 1960s, Roddy’s novel follows the life and times of ten-year old Paddy. With Paddy as narrator, he describes his day-to-day activities at home, school and around his neighborhood. Of course, like any 10-year-old boy he can go from horribly mischievous to sweet and wonderful and back again in 30 seconds. Thanks to his narration, the reader is able to see the adult world and all its mysterious, foibles and contradictions through the eyes of a young child. While critics and readers have praised the novel’s cadence and use of regional dialect, to me Paddy’s boyish interpretation of the world around him is the greatest thing about this novel.
While I didn’t enjoy Doyle’s novel to the degree I enjoyed the other above mentioned Booker prize-winners and short listed nominees, I kinda liked it. Doyle has a great gift when it comes to seeing the world through the eyes of a child and his novel proves it. As I worked my way through the string of vignettes comprising Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha I found myself transported back to my own childhood – good, bad and everything in between. Hats off to Doyle for helping making that experience possible.