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, 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 ...
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, 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 publican legend - one of Michael Collins' boys, a cop, a killer, an assassin on a stollen 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 ambitous book than any he has written before. A subersive look behind the legends of Irish republicanism, at its centre a passionate love story, this is a triumphant work of fiction.
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-10-04 Hardy Irishman Doyle delivers his prose in a mellifluous outpouring, gentle in its use of language but harsh in its cutting observations. The beauty of Doyle's words, heightened in spoken presentation, is especially affecting in the opening section, which describes the tough childhood of his Dublin hero, Henry Smart (strongly evoking Dickens and Joyce). Henry is an orphan, left behind by his mother?"ruined beyond repair" at his birth. His father, a one-legged enforcer at a local brothel, doesn't last long either. Living on the streets at age nine, Henry is the sole protector of his consumptive younger brother. His circumstances never get him down, though, because he knows that he is "the brightest spark in a city full of bright and desperate sparks." As the plot develops (Henry takes part in the 1916 Easter uprising and joins the fledgling Irish Republican Army, evolving into a warrior and a leader), Doyle's story becomes more linear, more like a standard action thriller. Yet he never fails listeners with his strong storytelling skills, which will keep all keenly tuned. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1999-07-12 Doyle just gets better and better. After the touching hijinks of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and the poignantly powerful The Woman Who Walked into Walls, he has embarked on nothing less than a trilogy that aims to tell the story of 20th-century Ireland through the life of one man. He is Henry Smart, product of the unlikely union of a teenage buttonmaker and a one-legged murderer, and from the opening lines Doyle has given him an unforgettable voice, fiercely poetic and utterly aware: "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 shocking substitute for the little Henry who'd been too good for this world, the Henry God had wanted for himself. Poor me." Henry grows into a handsome, healthy, fearless youth, ever mindful of the fearful poverty in which he makes his way, and of his father's dark reputation as a brothel bouncer, killer for hire and scourge of the Dublin police. Only natural, then, that the born rebel should join the fledgling IRA as a teenager and take part in its earliest battles. (The account of the 1916 Easter Rising, the occupation of the GPO and the bloodshed that follows must be one of the boldest and most vivid descriptions of civil strife in a familiar city ever penned.) After that, it's on to higher things for Henry: as a trainer of rebel soldiers, a young man high in the IRA councils, an avid lover of women?but also as one who begins to find the ideals of the revolution slipping away into arid opportunism and who, in the closing pages, turns his face toward America. This is history evoked on an intimate and yet earth-shaking scale, with a huge dash of the blarney, some mythical embellishments and a driving narrative that never falters. Names like Padraic Pearse, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, come and go, not like walk-ons in a pageant but as hideously fallible humans caught in the web of history. Maybe the Great American Novel remains to be written, but on the evidence of its first installment, this is the epic Irish one, created at a high pitch of eloquence. 12-city author tour. Penguin audio. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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