Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle

Tells the story of Paddy Clarke (Patrick) growing up in Ireland in the 1960s. Set in the fictional estate Barrytown when Paddy is 10, Doyle looks at childhood and the brutality of it. Paddy is pretty much second in bully Kevin's gang and they get into all kinds of trouble. Probably the worst is pouring lighter fluid down Paddy's younger brother Sinbad's (Francis) mouth and then lighting a match horribly burning his lips. Another time they post a dead guinea pig through the letterbox of a woman in their estate that they don't like.

About halfway through the book it turns from the misadventures of youth to a more serious tone as Paddy's parents marriage begins to reall break down. Paddy begins to take more responsibility in trying ti stop their fighting without their knowledge as well as looking out more for Sinbad who is starting to grow up. He starts to recognise Kevin for the true bully he is and hang out with loner and hard knock Charles Leavy.

The children are written very convincingly, both their language and their often bizarre logic. For instance in fights there are rules and if one hits another you get a free hit in return. It made me miss my childhood a little with all the random games with local kids. It also made me sad as this culture seems to be shrinking as kids these days seem more interested in indoor persuits like watching the television and playing computer games rather than running about and playing outdoors.