A Star Called Henry

A Star Called Henry

by Roddy Doyle
4.4 17

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Star Called Henry 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Who was he and where did he come from?¿He invented himself, and reinvented.¿ From the early pages of the novel, A Star Called Henry, Roddy Doyle creates a memorable character, Henry Smart, whose search for identity coincides with Ireland¿s struggle for independence. The history of Henry¿s life, son of an one-legged, bouncer and sometime hitman for a Dublin brothel, mirrors the often bloody, violent battles of the Irish Rebellion against the oppression of the British Empire. The fictionalized life of Henry Smart captures the energy, struggles and contradictions of Ireland¿s move from British rule to independence. Like the opening quote, Henry struggles to find himself and establish a kind of independence from his past. The birth of Henry Smart signals the beginning of his identity crisis. Named for a deceased brother, and his father, initially Henry¿s birth is met with fanfare and celebration. However, like the marriage of his parents, the beautiful Melody Nash and the beastly Henry Smart, the harsh reality of living in the slums of Dublin replace all illusions. While first believed to be a blessing from God, Henry comes to represent the pain of too many loss children for his mother and the end of a dream for his father. When Henry¿s father abandons the family, a young Henry hits the streets, searching for adventure, love, and his father. While living on the street, Henry encounters members of Sinn Féin, a nationalist organization, and creates the first of his many identities. After the Easter Uprising of 1916, Henry¿s reputation as a killer, and lover, grows and sets the stage for his greatest adventure -- the truth about his father. Henry¿s involvement with Sinn Féin and the freedom of his fellow countrymen, lead him to a startling realization about his father and himself. Doyle¿s blending of the fictionalized character Henry, with the guerilla war waged by Sinn Féin, is remarkable. With each page, Doyle explores the complexity of the Irish rebellion and the impact on the poor, uneducated pawns of both the British Empire and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). While Doyle¿s Henry ¿makes¿ history, the history of the IRA and the Irish people unfolds in a vivid, often complicated manner. There is no simple black or white in A Star Called Henry, but varying shades of grey and shadows. A Star Called Henry works both as a work of fiction and a historical recreation of the Irish rebellion. Doyle¿s fictionalized Miss O¿Shea, the future wife of Henry Smart, and Ivan, his protégé, are as real and vital to the novel as Michael Collins and James Connolly are to Sinn Féin. In Doyle¿s novel, history and fiction are seamless creations that both entertain and educate the reader simultaneously. The characters in A Star Called Henry, both real and imagined, recount the triumphs, tragedies and terror of the Irish people with a vitality often missing in the simple telling of history. A Star Called Henry is a must read for any student of history or literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Contemporary Irish authors such as Maeve Binchey, Edna O¿Brien, Frank McCourt, and Roddy Doyle have gained in popularity over the last several years, and Doyle¿s latest novel, A Star Called Henry, is an intense and powerful addition to this rich heritage. Doyle introduces the character of Henry Smart, bringing him from the shining miracle of his healthy birth through his childhood on the streets to early adulthood and into the dark and bloody Irish battle for independence. Even at its ugliest moments, A Star Called Henry is real and forceful and compelling, never allowing the reader to look away or dismiss the characters with pity. Through the eyes of protagonist Henry, Doyle depicts the bitter, dirty, and ugly slums of turn-of-the century Dublin, filled with disease, poverty, hunger and imminent rebellion, a rebellion that will roll through Ireland just as Henry reaches adolescence. Independent at age five, with no food or warmth or comfort to keep him at home, Henry takes to the streets and at fourteen, joins up with the Irish Rebels. Burdened with the legacies of a prematurely senile mother, a betrayed father and dead siblings, Henry throws his lot in with Michael Collins and the rebels during the Easter Rising in 1916, becoming an assassin and trainer of young countrymen. But Henry is not a character to feel badly for, as Doyle injects him with stamina and a zest for life. Doyle makes no apologies or attempts at redemption for Henry, instead chosing to stay true to Ireland¿s strife and violence and bringing forth a character that remains faithful to this. Even from his earliest, nameless moments in his zinc cradle, Henry struggles to come into his own and lay claim to his name and life. He is a character full of fire, driven by an iron will to endure, and to find the one woman, known only as Miss O¿Shea, his counterpart in daring and character. Henry is adept at survival and adapting to the rapidly changing circumstances of Dublin in rebellion, even prospering as a member of the motley crew that is the Irish Citizen Army and becoming a trusted ally of the legendary Michael Collins. Doyle seamlessly fuses Ireland's blood-spattered history of rebellion with Henry¿s own brutal yet remarkable tale of poverty and survival, never becoming preachy or making excuses. He never looks away from what Henry and his counterparts must do to survive, and therein lies the brilliance. Skillfully, Doyle weaves history and fiction into a spellbinding blend, producing an unlovely but unforgettable portrait of Ireland in rebellion and the cast of characters that made it happen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
By far the most enthralling book Doyle wrote until today. Far from the everyday commoner's language of his previous books, A Star Called Henry is a poem, a myth, a saga. Of course the hero is at least twice lifesize. Nobody grown up in the streets, and no one else at that, speaks exclusively in poetic one-liners as Henry Smart does. But perhaps this doesn't go for Ireland. As far as I am concerned, this book is for Ireland and the IRA what Animal Farm was for Russia and communism: a tragic journey from illusions of paradise to de delusion of everyday greed and treason. But Henry Smart will remain one of my few heroes, a man everybody would like to be, a vulnerable man and an unvulnerable demigod.
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"Anything you wish" she purred
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He pads off into the night...
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon reading this novel, i was almost in love with the character of Smart. He was brilliant, and knew it himself. Usually, one is turned of by arrogant characters, but with the character of Henry it is endearing and acceptable because it was all that he had to survive. He, as his father had, wrapped his life in a serious of lies and murder to run away from what he knew was true in himself and his brothers absence. One who hasn't read Doyle before will be delighted in his style and brilliance in the protrayal of a young man struggling in Ireland.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Few who read Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy would have forseen this former school teacher as the icon of Irish literature he has (deservedly) become. From wonderful, vernacular accounts of life among Dublins working classes in 'the Commitments', to the raw voice in 'Paddy Clarke, ha ha ha', to the brutally candid--and credible recounting of 'The Woman Who Walked into Doors', Doyle's representations of his characters remains true, though he continues to add dimensions to his writing. Never one to romanticize the modern Irish experience, the sheer guts required to piss all over the mythology of Irish rebel purity, deserves the Booker on its own. But what makes this book so rewarding for me, is how (like another Dubliner who lived most of his adult life on the Continent), 'Henry' is a sensuous book. Reading, one can smell, see, and feel what Henry experiences. And like most good Oirish fellas, his perceptions are framed in a bone-dry irony which often tumbles into bitter cynicism. It's a great book in so many ways, but what enthralled me about it was how Doyle uses some rather 'classic' biblical storytelling conventions to set up this unconventional story ab