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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Roddy Doyle's ambitious new novel is the story of Henry Smart, born in 1901 with "enough meat on him to make triplets." In a swaggering, often hilarious voice, Henry documents his first 20 years, in which he rises from the slums of Dublin to the front ranks of the IRA and beyond. The result, A Star Called Henry, provides a wildly provocative view of a country, and a person, from the inside out.
Henry must constantly strive to overcome his upbringing. His mother, her sanity undone by poverty and serial miscarriages, disappears early. His father, a peg-legged giant, works as a bouncer at a brothel ("In one neat hop he'd have the leg off and their heads open and the leg back on before they hit the ground"); when he is promoted, it is to serve as a contract killer for the mysterious Alfie Gandon. In time, Henry's father, too, is lost, and he's left with only his Granny Nash, a "witch" who exists somewhere between insanity and omniscience. She provides information about his past (and that of others), but only if he steals books for her to read.
Fortunately, as Henry says, "I loved the street, from the second I landed on it. The action, the noise, the smells — I gobbled them all up, I was striving for more." He and his younger brother, Victor, survive by collecting rats for dogfights and rustling catt