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.
Winning the 1993 Booker Prize propelled Doyle's fourth novel from its original spring publication to a December issue date. While retaining the candid pictures of family life, the swift, energetic prose, the ear-perfect vernacular dialogue and the slap-dash humor that distinguished The Van , The Snapper and The Commitments , this narrative has more poignance and resonance . Set in the working-class environment of an Irish town in the late 1960s, the story is related by bright, sensitive 10-year-old Paddy Clarke, who, when we first meet him, is merely concerned with being as tough as his peers. Paddy and his best friend Kevin are part of a neighborhood gang that sets fires in vacant buildings, routinely teases and abuses younger kids and plays in forbidden places. In episodic fashion, Doyle conveys the activities, taboos and ceremonies, the daring glee and often distorted sense of the world of boys verging on adolescence. As Paddy becomes aware that his parents' marriage is disintegrating, Doyle's control of his protagonist's voice remains unerring, and the gradual transition of Paddy's thoughts from the hurly-burly of play and pranks to a growing fear and misery about his father's alcoholic and abusive behavior is masterfully realized. While some topical references may bewilder readers unfamiliar with life in Ireland, other background details--the portrayal of small-town society, of the strict teacher who shows sudden empathy for Paddy--have universal interest. Most notable, however, is the emotional fidelity with which Doyle conveys Paddy's anguished reaction to the breakup of his family. (Dec.)