At first Paddy Clarke may look like a tough son of Barrytown, with a sharpened slangish tongue, a small gang of his own and a cigarette to cough on, but he is also a sensitive one. And yet, Paddy's most satisfying hobbies are tyrannizing his little brother as well as burning fires with his friends on the edge of their satellite town. Besides, at school and at the pitch he aims to fight any newcomer, guilty of invading his territory.
On the one hand, 10 years old Paddy dreams to be a gangster and tries to join the bad guys, but on the other he cares about his family and suffers for his parents increasing quarreling. This second Paddy feels lonely in his worries and constantly tries to be reassured while keep on observing the neighbours and expanding his encyclopedic, voracious knowledge on books.
No shrink needed in Barrytown. Luckly. Will Paddy Clarke manage to cope by himself with his fears? Apparently he will, despite of very little help from the outside world. What Roddy Doyle succeeded in creating with this book is a convincing recollection of events in a very much plausible childhood. Good choices done with both, the main character and his own peculiarly suburban language. (I still wonder what a "spa" is supposed to be and never heard that anatomic use of "mickey" before)
There are no chapters in this novel and sometimes even no logical passages from a situation to the next one, and yet the book is very coherent and never boring. The reader actually gets into the poor houses and rare shops of Barrytown nosing out of their multicolored curtains, smelling the mud around and even listening to that man who cries at the full moon by night. Paddy Clarke lives nearby.