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She held me but she looked up at her twinkling boy. Poor me beside her, pale and red-eyed, held together by rashes and sores. A stomach crying to be filled, bare feet aching like an old, old man's. Me, a shocking substitute for the little Henry who'd been too good for this world, the Henry God had wanted for himself. Poor me.Soon, his father has all but abandoned the growing family, and at 9 Henry is on his own, running wild in the streets, thieving to stay alive. Depressing as all this sounds, Doyle has invested his narrator with such an appetite for life, and rendered him so resolutely unsorry for himself, that it seems almost insulting to pity him.
By the time he is 14, Henry has become a soldier in the new Irish Republican Army and in one long and harrowing chapter, we view the events of the Easter Rising of 1916 from his position in the thick of it. It's not a pretty sight by any means, as the populace is divided in its support and various factions within the Republican Army threaten to splinter and annihilate one another before the British even get there. When the shooting starts, Henry aims not at the British but at the store windows across the street. "I shot and killed all that I had been denied, all the commerce and snobbery that had been mocking me and other hundreds of thousands behind glass and locks, all the injustice, unfairness and shoes--while the lads took chunks out of the military." Though the uprising is eventually crushed and the leaders executed, Henry escapes to live--and fight--another day.
In previous books such as The Barrytown Trilogy, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and The Woman Who Walked into Doors, Doyle has established himself as one of the premiere chroniclers of modern Irish life. With A Star Called Henry, he works his singular magic on the past. What's more, this is only volume one of the Last Roundup, so it looks like we haven't seen the last of Henry Smart. And that's a very good thing, indeed. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
How to review a book that delighted and disappointed in equal measure? The 5 star part for me was the brilliant recounting by Roddy Doyle of the inner life of an Irish republican... Read morePublished 26 days ago by keetmom
I found this very disappointing after Roddy Doyle earlier work. Couldn't finish the trilogy.Published 1 month ago by Edward Gallagher
This book transported me to the mind and body of its protagonist, Henry Smart. You will not read this novel: you will *feel* it. I couldn't put the book down. Read morePublished 4 months ago by DF70
Doyle portrays the poverty of late 19th century Ireland in a rough tough manner that has the reader bleeding physically and emotionally as she fights to survive Henry's life as a... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Susan Argutto
Beautiful, painful book - really brought home life on the streets in Dublin - and clarified pieces of Irish history from the ground (as it were). Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jordy Cornog