A Star Called Henry

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9780676972351: A Star Called Henry

Born in the slums of Dublin in 1901, with his father as a one-legged whore-house bouncer and settler of scores, Henry Smart has to grow up fast. By the time he can walk, he's out robbing, begging, often cold, always hungry, but a prince of the streets. At fourteen, already six foot two, Henry's in the General Post Office on Easter Monday 1916, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army, fighting for freedom. A year later, he's ready to die for Ireland again, a rebel, a Fenian and soon, a killer. With his father's wooden leg as his weapon, Henry becomes a republican legend - one of Michael Collins' boys, a cop killer, an assassin on a stolen bike. An historical novel like none before it, "A Star Called Henry" marks a new chapter in Roddy Doyle's writing. It is a vastly more ambitious book than any he has written before. Taking a subversive look behind the legends of Irish republicanism, with a passionate love story at its centre, this is a triumphant work of fiction.

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Review:

"Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood." The quote is from Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up impoverished in Limerick, circa World War II. But the sentiment might just as easily have come from the fictional lips of Henry Smart, the hero of Roddy Doyle's remarkable novel of Dublin in the teens, A Star Called Henry. The son of a one-legged hit man, young Henry is the third child born but the first to live through infancy. He is also the second Henry--the first having died, and become a star in the mind of his mother.

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

From the Inside Flap:

An historical novel like none before it, A Star Called Henry marks a new chapter in Booker Prize-winner Roddy Doyle's writing. It is a vastly more ambitious book than any he has previously written. A subversive look behind the legends of Irish republicanism, at its centre a passionate love story, this new novel is a triumphant work of fiction.
Born in the slums of Dublin in 1902, his father a one-legged whorehouse bouncer and settler of scores, Henry Smart has to grow up fast. By the time he can walk he's out robbing, begging, charming, often cold, always hungry, but a prince of the streets. At fourteen, already six foot two, Henry's in the General Post Office on Easter Monday 1916, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army, fighting for freedom. A year later he's ready to die for Ireland again, a rebel, a Fenian, and, soon, a killer. With his father's wooden leg as his weapon, Henry becomes a republican legend - one of Michael Collins' boys, a cop killer, an assassin on a stolen bike, a lover.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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Doyle, Roddy.
Published by Viking (1999). (1999)
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Roddy. Doyle
Published by Viking (1999). (1999)
ISBN 10: 0676972357 ISBN 13: 9780676972351
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Book Description Viking (1999)., 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0676972357

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