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A Star Called Henry (Last Roundup) Paperback – October 5, 2004
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Before A Star Called Henry, I wasn't much a fan of Roddy Doyle the author, preferring the film versions of the Barrytown Trilogy, but I await with anticipation the remaining books in his latest Trilogy.
A STAR CALLED HENRY, thank God, is one of the good ones. Great ones actually.
Previously, Irish novelist Roddy Doyle has focused his talents on life in modern-day Ireland. His works have been small character studies, with simple plots that come alive through Doyle's ear for dialogue and eye for intriguing themes. PADDY CLARKE HA HA HA, while considered a departure from his BARRYTOWN TRILOGY novels of blue collar Irish, was nevertheless a similar sort of story. A very small, intimate view of remarkable characters.
But A STAR CALLED HENRY takes Doyle into the new realms of historical fiction. In a story that can only be described as 'epic', Doyle traces the formative years of Henry Smart, street urchin turned IRA assassin, living at the beginning of the 20th century, as Ireland began to revolt against its English rulers.
Henry's beginnings show that Doyle has not traded his gift of characterization for narrative sweep. Henry's starts his tale before he was conceived, as his well-meaning but young mother falls in love with Henry Senior, a one-legged bouncer and hitman. With terrific economy of style, Doyle manages to convey both the excitement and desperation of Henry's life.Read more ›
This novel deals with the eventful first twenty years of the life of Henry Smart, the son of Henry Smart Senior. Senior is a whorehouse bouncer in early 1900's Dublin, and becomes a part-time murderer for the mysterious Alfie Gandon, whom he never meets. He eventually abandons his family, and their slide into desperate poverty and the decline of his wife is described in haunting detail. Henry Junior leaves home to fend for himself, assisted by his little brother Victor, who dies from consumption.
Henry Junior then becomes involved with the Republican Movement, not because he is a staunch Republican, but because he is hoping for a better, more socially just, Ireland. He becomes a crack Republican assassin in an increasingly dirty war, and eventually realises that he is serving a new, shadowy elite, one of whom is the same Alfie Gandon his father used to serve.
In the process Doyle makes a number of telling points about "liberation" movements, points not only applicable to the Irish experience. Three of the most important are:
1. Such movements are often mythologised/idealized, with the myth serving to hide skeletons in the cupboard.
2. The leaders of a liberation movement easily form a new elite, intent on amassing wealth and not serving the common people.
3. The footsoldiers in a liberation struggle are dispensable, and often do not gain from the struggle.
But this is not a pedantic novel, and can be read for enjoyment as well. I would rate it as one of Doyle's best two novels to date, on a par with the excellent "The Woman Who Walked Into Doors".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Every sentence jumps off the page. You can see, feel and viscerally attach to Henry's story and that of the Irish revolution. A tour de force!Published 1 month ago by Stan Roden
Fantastic - a fresh perspective on a much-written about period of Irish history. Funny, surprising and brilliantly well writtenPublished 3 months ago by Barry, Linda
Enticing and exciting enough for the pleasure reader, complex and academic enough for the scholarly reader. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
I found this book hard to put down,, loved the way the writer made it very realPublished 16 months ago by lorraine Collis
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 17 months ago by keetmom
I found this very disappointing after Roddy Doyle earlier work. Couldn't finish the trilogy.Published 18 months 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 21 months ago by DF70