From Publishers Weekly
Doyle stumbles somewhat in this sequel to his excellent 1999 bestseller, A Star Called Henry.
Beginning with Irish revolutionary Henry Smart's arrival in New York City in 1924, the story follows Henry's subsequent adventures in advertising, bootlegging, pornography, unlicensed dentistry and keeping ahead of the former associates who'd like to see him eat a lead sandwich. After encroaching too much on a mobster's turf—and getting lucky with another powerful fellow's kept lady—Henry hightails it to Chicago, where he becomes the unofficial manager of a young Louis Armstrong. Though serendipitously reunited with his beloved wife and the daughter he's never met while trying to rob her employer's house, Henry soon heads back to New York to help Louis make it big. While just as brash and lively as Doyle's earlier novels, this one isn't nearly as focused; the dialogue-heavy narrative is interspersed with shifts in setting, time and plot, and characters appear and disappear with little consequence, their spoken parts hasty, repetitive and often perplexing. Worse, Doyle takes Henry Smart's charm for granted; readers unfamiliar with his previous adventures may roll their eyes at his arrogance and incessant sexual encounters. There's just too much material; any of the novel's numerous strands could have been fleshed out into its own book. That said, the novel is still a lot of improbable fun.
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Booker Prize-winning Doyle (Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha
) has taken a few missteps with his latest offering, the second in a projected trilogy. In previous books, Doyle explored the lives of down-and-out immigrants (like those of parents; see Rory & Ita
, **1/2 Mar/Apr 2003). Here, hes attempted a historical epic of early to mid-twentieth century America. Sure, theres a lot to celebrate: Doyles comedic look at Depression-era immigrants chaos, hardships, and excitement, his "combo jazzed-up sassy poetry" style (Chicago Sun-Times
). Cameos by musicians, actors, and filmmakers add to the fun. But odd pacing, lack of focus, and the extreme extravagance of both characters and plot create an overly chaoticif wildly funromp through Henrys America.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.