Adventures in Reading

Revisited: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Prior to Adventures in Reading, I had started writing the odd review/summary. Now to try and gather them all to one location and to compensate for my loss of reading time with my Spanish course, I’m going to post the old reviews and revisit them. I’ve commented before that my opinions of the books are always quite biased to the time of writing, and so I’m also looking at this as a project of my own opinion.

My second Roddy Doyle read and it was no less impressive than the first. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is the story of a 10-year-old boy growing up in Ireland. His experiences range from boyhood friendships to the classroom to his parent’s domestic disputes. Doyle is immensely talented and consistently manages to embrace his characters and represent them in a nearly too real fashion. Paddy Clarke not only feels like it’s a story of a 10-year-old boy but is specifically narrated by a 10-year-old boy and by the end of the book one has to wonder “Doyle, who’s he?” Doyle’s narrative is addicting and moving and I had to have spent half the book asking people, “Do you remember when…” A definite must read for everyone.

I have adored everything that I’ve read by Roddy Doyle and since Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha I’ve read his chapter in Click and his short story collection The Deportees. While I’m not sure if I would call it a “must read” in retrospect, I would say Doyle is an author everyone should read at least once in a lifetime. His novels are funny and engaging, and my collection is steadily growing.

Other opinions: Nymeth.


The Deportees by Roddy Doyle

I mentioned this book some months ago when I first heard it was coming out, and I was absolutely thrilled. There are few authors that I wait in anticipation for more books, but Doyle is definitely one of them. I first was introduced to his works through the film adaptation of his book The Commitments and also had his The Woman Who Walked Into Doors assigned for a 20th Century Irish Literature course. Since then I have delved into other novels such as Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha and I have always left impressed and wanting more Doyle.

In his foreword, Doyle reflects on the old and new Ireland and how much the demographics have changed over the past few decades. For once it seems that Ireland has more immigrants than emmigrants. Doyle reflects that, “In 1986, I wrote The Commitments. In that book, the main character, a young man called Jimmy Rabbitte, delivers a line that became quite famous: –The Irish are the niggers of Europe. Twenty years on, there are thousands of Africans living in Ireland and, if I was writing that book today, I wouldn’t use that line.”

The Deportees and Other Stories is an amazing collection of stories and almost all revolve around the idea of “Someone born in Ireland meets someone who has come to live here.” Doyle is a great writer and I have always enjoyed his narrative and descriptive style, but perhaps my favorite part of this collection is the wide array of stories. Often in collections by a single author the stories can become unfortunately tedious and melt into each other. Ideally, it is not best to try and ingest this kind of collection all at once. However, Doyle’s stories have a diverse array including a horror story, a reappearance of Jimmy Rabbitte, a family story, teenagers being arrested, etc. While a common theme pervades the stories they each have wonderfully unique qualities.

I will say my favorite story had to be the one horror story in the collection – “The Pram.” A story of a Polish woman who has been “imported” as a childminder. No one from the parents to the children are particularly kind to her and after a particularly cruel and embarrassing exchange between Alina, the minder, and O’Reilly, the mother, Alina decides to take her revenge.

This is a lovely collection and met every anticipation I had for it.

“But the one thing you learn during war is that you can’t pick and choose, and in the end, pretty much everyone is a loser.” Ruth Ozeki’s “Jiro” from Click

In my experience there is nothing wrong with judging a book by its cover. In fact, I have discovered many books simply by taking a risk on the cover art. At work I walked by the novel Click and found myself turning back, and I could barely believe that the cover was a plain dust jacket and not a layered cardboard design – the camera just looked too real to be a photo. It was only after I picked up the book that I discovered how brilliant this book could be.

Click is a young adult novel written by ten authors (Linda Sue Park, David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Roddy Doyle, Tim Wynne-Jones, Ruth Ozeki, Margo Lanagan, and Gregory Maguire) and the proceeds are donated to Amnesty International. The actual story these ten authors tell is about the legacy of the fictional photojournalist George “Gee” Keane and this man’s influence and effect on those he encountered during his life. The story is told through a variety of voices including Gee’s grandchildren and the subjects of his portraits.

As a whole Click is an easy, interesting, and fun read. With the holidays fast approaching Click is the perfect book to take on an airplane or to snuggle up with over a hot cup of chocolate. The book is described as “one novel ten authors,” but this perhaps is not entirely true. However, it is also not a short story collection. Click is a frame story where each author writes a new “frame” that develops the plot as a whole. In some ways the actual physicality of the text – or at least the terminology describing the text – sustains the idea of photography. Other continuing themes in the book reflect Gee’s grandchildren’s inheritance: his grandson Jason receives a package of autographed photos and his granddaughter Maggie receives a box containing seven seashells.

I admit that in addition to the dust jacket that I picked up this book after seeing Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle were contributing authors. Otherwise I very well may have passed it by. Some chapters were certainly stronger than other chapters and I now need to spend some time with books by David Almond and Ruth Ozeki. My least favorite chapter was actually the first chapter by Linda Sue Park. I had never read anything by Park, but I found her chapter the least engaging and original of the collection. Regardless of the one weak chapter, Click is a terrific book to pick or to give to a young adult in your life.