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A Star Called Henry (The Last Roundup #1)

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  6,412 Ratings  ·  459 Reviews
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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Vintage Canada (first published 1999)
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Jeanne Mixon I was confused by this too because I got this book from a train station giveaway and didn't know anything about it. But I looked it up on Wikipedia…moreI was confused by this too because I got this book from a train station giveaway and didn't know anything about it. But I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is part one of a trilogy followed by Oh Play That Thing and The Dead Republic. So I assume the Chicago bit is foreshadowing to be explained later.(less)
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Jun 06, 2015 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A Star Called Henry by Irish writer Roddy Doyle is a rare find: a book that blends a genuine language, a unique narrative structure, and an amazing story. Told from a first person, past tense omnipresent perspective, the reader is led along a remembered past full of historical dramatic irony with glimpses into a mysterious future. We are with an infant Henry Smart as he is born and trace a tragi-comic upbringing in the dirty streets of 1902 Dublin.

Using Henry’s wild, feral childhood as a v
Mar 10, 2009 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite Roddy Doyle book, "A Star Called Henry" is the fictional story of a young man, Henry Smart, growing up in the Ireland of the early 20th century. I much preferred this over the more well-known, but sentimental, "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt.
Doyle doesn't mince words, and much of his imagery contradicts the Ireland many of our grandparents may have described to us growing up. It may not be the Ireland they chose to remember and tell us about, but it is the one they chose to leave
May 20, 2014 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
Together, we pushed and pulled my britches down to my thighs. Then Annie grabbed my arse before it had a chance to draw breath.

-Jesus, what's that?

It was a sheet of twopenny stamps, still stuck to my cheeks a week after Miss O'Shea had thrown me down onto them.

-Stamps, I said.

-What are they doing there?

-It was the only way I could smuggle them out. You can write to your husband now, Annie, I said.

-The dead can't read, said Annie. -And he couldn't read, anyway, when he wasn't dead.

-Oh, I said.

This is the story of Henry Smart, a Dublin slum boy, born in profound poverty in 1901, who survives on the streets by his wits and physical strength. His father, Henry Smart senior, is well-known around the slums thanks to his wooden leg. He is a violent thug and killer-for-hire, a product of the Dublin slums himself. He works as an enforcer for brothel owner Dolly Oblong, and due to his propensity for extreme violence, has to disappear eventually.

Meanwhile, Melody Smart, Henry’s mother, struggl
I waivered between 4.5 and 5 stars but wanted to reflect how great I found this book. I must say at the start that this book probably requires at least a basic knowledge of the history of the Irish Uprising and Anglo-Irish war. Henry Smart is a survivor and more. His Dublin is both vast and a small village. This reflects the Dublin I have come to know.

Henry is born into poverty which becomes even more extreme after his father disappears. His father who has lost a leg, leaves behind his wooden l
Mar 16, 2016 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have now added a bit at the end of this review - thoughts that have later occurred to me.

The making and breaking of an IRA man. I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into when I started this one, but I am very glad I did. No regrets - on reading it! I had a hard time with the dialogue, but it shouldn't be different. I liked the whole book - the start, the middle, the end. Easter Monday 1916 - read about it through Henry Smart's eyes. It stands out, but I won't say why. Truly, a good de
Emma Flanagan
I received this book for Christmas and had intended reading it next month, what with the month that'll be in it and all (for non-Irish readers next month is the centenary celebration of the 1916 Easter Rising, the opening shots effectively in our War of Independence) but when it got selected for a bookclub, it moved up my reading list slightly.

Other than The Barrytown Trilogy, I haven't read many of Doyle's books, though I'm aware they cover quite a spectrum from children's to adult books, deal
Sep 09, 2016 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is only my second Doyle (the other being Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, which I thought was great) and from the two, I see that language is Doyle's thing, quirky and gritty, in keeping with the lives he portrays, as well as his dark humor. In the first part of this novel those qualities are showcased tremendously, even if it's done in a tall-tale vein, which isn't something I usually care for. In fact, the whole novel is picaresque (another thing I'm not particularly fond of) though this is histori ...more
Soumen Daschoudhury
Jul 07, 2015 Soumen Daschoudhury rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
I am water. I need to flow. I don’t have the leisure of thought; I don’t have the capacity of it. I am a part of the picture. I flow to the edge of a cliff and I fall, I swerve and dance besides mountains and fields, I am guided by the rocks and pebbles. I entertain sundry for a dip into my wetness. Sometimes I am placid and calm to the guy with the hat and boots and jacket as he patiently holds the line for a catch. I merge into the sea or the ocean and though I may look sedate on the surface, ...more
Jordan Catapano
Dec 30, 2008 Jordan Catapano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superior story entertainingly blending the facts of the Irish Rebellion with the fictitious Henry. Doyle tells Henry's story with extraordinary craft, developing the background of the Irish cultural struggle against the British as well as creating an intriguing character to follow.

The adventure, humor, sentiment, history, and development of each really construct an interesting story. Henry's connection to his father and adventures in the Irish city and country are informative, but just plain e
Daniel Kukwa
Aug 16, 2011 Daniel Kukwa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-lit
After a brilliant opening, I'm afraid this book lost me. I didn't end up caring about anyone or any situation. A great pity, especially considering that I found Doyle's other Irish-influenced fiction to be top rate. Maybe this side-turn into historical epic is some sort of achiles' heel...?

Ron Charles
Dec 19, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned about the IRA in 1982 during lunch at the Hard Rock Caf in central London. During my hamburger, a bomb blew up a crowded bandstand and killed six musicians in Regent's Park. Sound of the distant explosion startled us, but we laughed it off and went on with our meal.

A classmate of mine, though, was listening to the band that hot summer day. Shattered by her vision of the carnage, she quit school and flew back home.

Probably everybody in England and Northern Ireland has a story about the
Feb 17, 2016 Finn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good the-revolution-is-actually-the-counter-revolution book. I was pretty into it, but felt pretty bored with the main dude getting characterized as this irresistible hunk that all the ladies were itching to fuck. He married a bad ass lady but in the end we didn't actually learn anything about her life.
so it would've gotten four stars from me but the sexist shit fucked it up.
Maria Thomarey
Jan 30, 2016 Maria Thomarey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 David Lentz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roddy Doyle exhibits his penchant for creating power by using a narrative that is richly minimalist in his story about the Irish struggle beginning with the Easter 1916 Uprising in the General Post Office in Dublin. I had flashbacks to the maximalism of The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, which also concerns a violent political standoff in a Post Office. Doyle's style is extremely accessible and vivid and powerful in the way that Hemingway created strength by his use of short, punchy syntax like a new ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Briynne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was really fun. I'm hugely fascinated with early 20th century Irish history, and it was a delight to read about Henry casually rubbing elbows with everyone from James Connolly to Michael Collins. It didn't even strike me as contrived, which is almost amazing considering how clumsily historical figures are typically used in fiction.

What was even better was the sheer amount of life in Doyle's writing; Henry jumped off the page from the very beginning and didn't let up. I loved
Feb 16, 2009 Sydney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patrick O'Hagan
This is the best Roddy Doyle book I have read thus far. It starts off as so many Irish books do...a poverty-stricken young boy, raised in Ireland at the turn of the century. So, it begins as this tragic, yet enjoyable that is reminiscent of Angela's Ashes. At some point you realize this book is not going to end in any typical way, though, because the boy named Henry Smart is one of the founding members of the Irish Republic Army - what many consider to be a terrorist group today. I w ...more
This book is the first of the Henry Smart Trilogy. It is seen through the eyes of Henry Smart. He is born in to poverty in around 1902. He father is a drunken one legged man who is a bouncer for a living. His mother is already grieving for the babies she has lost and Henry is the first of the babies that survived. Henry is the second baby named Henry. The first died soon after birth and is now seen as a star in the heaven by their mother. Henry does not have a happy life as a small child. His fa ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Sylvester rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, 2014
Couldn't give this only 1* because of the brilliant writing, and I do mean brilliant. Roddy Doyle is a poet when it comes to muck and squalor - his writing is so compelling that I finished this book - on a subject I dislike intensely. I can't really compliment a writer more than this. I hope "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" will be more to my taste.
A. Mary
Feb 02, 2012 A. Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-novels
This is brilliant storytelling, it's myth-making and myth-breaking, it's ambitious and subversive, and one of my favourite books. Doyle's complex blend of history and myth and politics is a must read. The characters are remarkable and compelling, and Henry is flat-out magic.
May 23, 2010 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-authors
Wow. I remember enjoying this very much when it came out in paperback, about ten years ago, but I'd forgotten just how much. Now that the third installment of Henry Smart's story, The Dead Republic, has been published, I thought I'd give myself a refresher. Wow. This is in my opinion the most "mature" novel of Roddy Doyle, in terms of plot and themes, character development, subplots and all that, but it still has the freshness and vibrancy that has marked almost all of Doyle's work. And that fre ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
What would an Irish Superman be like? Or, more like it, an Irish Heracles. I think, coming from Ireland in the early part of the 20th century he'd be a figure with more weight on his shoulders than either.

Henry is in some ways the classic larger-than-life (literally) historical novel main character, playing a key, unacknowledged role at various turning points in history. But he is also that Irish Heracles who held my interest despite the expected tragedy of his surroundings and his uncertain mor
May 25, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult book for me to review. Doyle is a spectacular writer. There is a two page description of living conditions in early 20th century Dublin - a rant by Henry after his brother dies - that could and should be required reading for public health folks. A very short bit from page 83-85: "The city killed Victor. And, today, the King was being crowned . In another city. In London. Did they cough till they died in London? Did kings and queens cough up blood? Did their children die under tarpaul ...more
Aug 20, 2010 AnneMarie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is just fantastic. It takes the history every Irish person has grown up with and makes it into a living breathing scene that you're slap bang in the middle of. The characters, the legends, the scurmishes that are deeply familiar to us suddenly shout in our ear, you can taste their smells on your tongue. For me, that was the pure joy in this book. It was like it was connecting me to something deeply personal from the history that has surrounded me all my life. No, it's not a very object ...more
Jean Carlton
Jun 16, 2015 Jean Carlton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommend
I see I did not have time to write a review when I finished this book and just found my sticky notes that I put in the front cover of every book I read. A very inside look at Ireland at the turn of the 20th century and the age old, and continuing conflict between those who want an independent Ireland and those favoring continued British rule. After just traveling there I was completely taken in with it. Henry is an amazing character, the writing is excellent and it's educational as well as highl ...more
Jul 04, 2010 Karima rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of like reading Frank McCourt's version of Paul Bunyan.
Takes place in Ireland and centers around the Irish Revolution (Easter Uprising) of 1916. It is narrated by Henry Smart, a larger-than-life figure, born and raised in the Dublin slums. By age 14 he is a soldier in the (then new) Irish Republican Army. Started out strong but lost me about a third of the way through. Many, many, far too descriptive scenes of street brutality. Author assumes his reader is knowledgeable about Irish history
Mar 02, 2014 Ted rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another remarkable book by Roddy Doyle. Few authors craft a story as skillfully Doyle. His signature style of limited punctuation and rich dialogue are again front and center in this novel. Henry Smart is the kind of protagonist you can never get enough of. He is quick witted, sentimental, and deadly as a virus. We see the birth of the new Ireland through his eyes, hear it through his words, and experience it with each of his bloody deeds. Doyle manages to mix oppressive, overbearing grief with ...more
May 29, 2010 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book follows the life of Henry Smart, born at the beginning of the 20th century in Dublin Ireland. His tale is about the multiple births of his siblings, the fast decline of his family, being homeless by age six, and being a part of the Irish Rebellion. While reading this book, I kept asking myself, is this possible, could this really have happened? I did some cross referencing and searches and found out the life of Henry Smart, although a fictitious character, certainly could have, and did ...more
Apr 24, 2009 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paints a portrait of The Irish Republican Army from the inside, during the fight for independence. Henry is as tough as they come. He survives growing up on the streets of Dublin, survives the Easter Week fight in 1916, and goes on to murder for the IRA until he learns what's really going on. It's more a fascinating character portrait than a historical novel, although it's that as well. A portrait of Henry, of his fractured family, of Dublin and of Ireland in its birth pangs. Somehow Henry's sol ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Tamlynem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't into this book at first. Then, during an extra-annoying layover at the Philadelphia Airport, it gripped me. What a great book!
There are so many angles: family, poverty, history, the IRA, politics, love, feminism, belief and the loss of belief . . . This story is a warning to everyone who is a simple believer in any kind of movement. You can never lose your head. You have to constantly be evaluating whether the goals that you are working for are legitimate.
I haven't read anything else
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Something Old, So...: March 2015 - A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle 5 4 Mar 31, 2015 12:57PM  
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Roddy Doyle (Irish: Ruaidhrí Ó Dúill) is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. Several of his books have been made into successful films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. He won the Booker Prize in 1993.

Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, Dublin. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University College, Dublin. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming
More about Roddy Doyle...

Other Books in the Series

The Last Roundup (3 books)
  • Oh, Play That Thing
  • The Dead Republic

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