Irish writer Doyle's fourth novel (The Van, The Snapper, etc.)--and the just-announced 1993 Booker Prize winner: a story that depicts with remarkable acuity that extraordinary intensity of response that is at the heart of childhood. Doyle, who's limned with wry affection the lives of families in Dublin's working-class neighborhoods, here makes ten-year-old Paddy Clarke of Barrytown, Dublin, his narrator. Barrytown, a suburb once on the edge of the city, is now increasingly surrounded by new public-housing projects--a situation that makes for a certain uneasiness since the Barrytowners themselves are barely holding onto their own hard-won middle-class respectability. But for Paddy, best friend Kevin, and the rest of the gang, these construction sites are the playgrounds of choice--rich sources of useful material and the perfect settings for mischief. Paddy, who lives with his three siblings and parents in a modest house--the only one with a room his mother insists on calling "the drawing room"--details in vivid colloquialisms his pranks, his dreams, and the wonderfully imaginative if harmlessly naughty games children devise when released from TV's bondage. Paddy is increasingly troubled, though, by the fear that he will, like friends Aidan and Charles, lose a parent. He loves his parents dearly and--aware of their fights, his mother's unhappiness, and his father's drinking- -tries desperately to intervene, often staying awake all night ("I was on guard...all I had to do was stay awake..."). Preoccupied and unhappy, he plans to run away, but his father leaves first. And Paddy knows then that "tomorrow or the day after my ma was going to call me over to her and was going to say--You're the man of the house now, Patrick." Perhaps too many anecdotes of boys beings boys, but Doyle has rendered childhood as it really is: a time of brutal absolutes, of boundless possibilities, and of dark, inconsolable griefs. A work of maturity and grace.