Paddy Clarke is a ten year old boy in Ireland. He does all the things that young working class boys of his age do- he goes to school, plays when school is over, fights with his sibling and discovers the wonders of the world in his infinite curiosity.
The book is true to young boys in all cultures across ages. It explores a variety of themes related to childhood. A young boy's understanding of parental relationships, his methods of coping with peer pressure, his rapport with his siblings- each theme deserves a separate chapter of analysis. In the beginning, Paddy Clarke is a spirited child who is led more by instant wishes rather than by thought. Paddy lights up his brother's mouth with lighter fuel to watch it go like ' a dragon'. As the book progresses, we see Paddy Clarke's relationship with his brother Sinbad mature: 'Pretending to be protecting him, I'd wanted him close to me, to share, to listen together; to stop it or run away'.We see him slowly learn to comprehend peer pressure:'They could only boycott me if I didn't want to be boycotted'. We witness him actively seeking solutions to the growing rift between his parents:'Why didn't Da like Ma? She liked him; it was him didn't like her. What was wrong with her?' Such snippets mark Paddy Clarke's mental growth in the novel.
This book is unique for its captivating writing style. Roddy Doyle has slipped into juvenile shoes and written the book like it is a diary maintained by a ten year old boy. Childhood inconsistencies of logic, a child's love for music in words, even a child's way of remembering and correlating to things. Doyle dexterously serves it all. The language trots with the boys when they play, races with them when they steal from shops and halts in suspense when the boys are caught in the middle of trouble making.
This is a book I will remember for two reasons. One, for its unique style of narration. And two, for its lovely cover. The book cover shows a young white boy hanging-on happily from what looks like a wall. The cover captures the spirit of the book beautifully. The cover is as happy-go-lucky as Paddy Clarke himself and as memorable as the memoirs of the ten year old. The picture evokes a sense of fragile glee and sets one effectively in the right mood for the book.
Book Reviewed by Ashmita Saha
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