The eponymous Paddy Clarke lives with his mother and father, his brother Sinbad and his two younger sisters. Paddy and Sinbad fight a lot but in general the family seem happy.
We meet Paddy’s gang through a variety of mischievous scrapes - stealing from building sites for example.
Paddy’s friend Kevin seems to be the leader of the group.
Paddy is a bright curious boy, despite the routine learning in Mr Hennessey’s class. He enjoys watching comedy films in the school hall.
Paddy has memories of his youth and happy times with his parents, but as the novel progresses Mr and Mrs Clarke begin arguing more and more.
The Corporation houses are being built nearby - there is a feeling that things are changing in the area.
Mr and Mrs Clarke’s fighting becomes noticeably more frequent and violent.
Paddy begins to stay up to do more school work in the hope he can stop them. Consequently he makes progress at school.
Paddy’s father comes home drunk - something Paddy has never seen before. As things get worse in the house Paddy tries to be kinder to Sinbad.
Paddy becomes fascinated with Charles Leavy, a streetwise boy from the Corporation houses. In an attempt to befriend him Paddy truants and smokes.
Paddy fights with Kevin and falls out with him. Paddy’s gang turn against him.
Paddy’s father leaves and Paddy becomes “the man of the house”.