A Star Called Henry
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A Star Called Henry (The Last Roundup #1)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  4,934 ratings  ·  374 reviews
Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, Henry Smart lives through the evolution of modern Ireland, and in this extraordinary novel he brilliantly tells his story. From his own birth and childhood on the streets of Dublin to his role as soldier (and lover) in the Irish Rebellion, Henry recounts his early years of reckless heroism and adventure. At once an epic, a lo...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 5th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Suzanne
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...more
Tony
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.

-Oh
...more
Teresa
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
Jordan Catapano
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...more
Daniel Kukwa
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
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...more
Briynne
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...more
Sydney
Feb 16, 2009 Sydney rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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 story...one 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
A. Mary Murphy
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.
Frank
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
David Lentz
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
Robert
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...more
Chrissie
I have now added a bit at the end of this review, thoughts that have later occured 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 read it. No regrets - on reading it that is. I had a hard time with the dialogue, but it was right. 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 wont say why. Truly - a ggod desc...more
AnneMarie
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
Sylvester
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.
Karima
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...more
Renee
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
Monica
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
Tamlynem
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...more
Charles
This is an excellent & captivating account of Ireland in the early 20th century, seen through the eyes of Henry Smart, a youngster brought up in the slums of Dublin, in poverty & despair, learning to survive in the streets, looking after his younger brother Victor who dies of TB as a young child. Henry acquires street smarts & survives by doing a variety of jobs, and learns that his father acts as the enforcer & killer for his empoyer-the madam of a whorehouse & her lover.usi...more
Vicki
3.5★
This book was grand. I read it for Around the World in Books-Ireland.
It's the larger than life story of Henry Smart, a grunt during the Easter Rising and then in the IRA, who rubs shoulders with all the big names of the day.

I liked the first part with Henry's parents and growing up on the streets of Dublin. He was such a brat that I didn't really care what happened to him. He had some good moments though and it certainly wasn't his fault he was born into such extreme poverty. According to He...more
Lyn
Grand.

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...more
Debbie Walker
Excellent book, interesting account of the harsh & brutal times in Irish History when establishing the Republic. The characters are wonderfully described with Henry at the centre of the story throughout. Expertly written.

Born in the Dublin slums of 1901, 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 and begging, often cold and always hungry, but a prince of the streets. By Easter Monday, 1916, he's...more
Mary
I don't get it!! This book is not well written. Its language is filthy to the point of boredom. The story is about a dishonest person and his misadventures. I did learn something about the Irish Revolution, but I should have taken it straight from a history book. And this is part of a trilogy, too.
Nancy
Excellent. I liked the book a lot, though it is terrifying to think about what poverty and deprivation does to the human spirit. Doyle really immersed me into that world. It's hard to imagine being sympathetic toward a main character who is a killer, but Doyle pulls it off.
Bondama
This is one of the most unique views of Irish History I have ever come across. I read the book (apparently the 1st in a series) and raced through it, forgetting to change the shelf. But I do recommend virtually ANYTHING written by Roddy Doyle.
Morgan Egge kiedrowski
One of my favorite books ever. I read it in an Irish Lit class in college and fell in love with Henry's character and Roddy Doyle's writing, in my opinion he's one of the best Irish writers today.
Erin
Contrary to what the reader immediately thinks, the star called Henry is not our protagonist, Henry Smart. It is his brother's ghost, the first born child who died soon after birth and who his mother never got over. His parents both tolerate the Henry who lives and treat him as they do their other surviving children, but his mother constantly points out "Henry"'s star and calls her living son by his name as little as possible. Henry's father, also Henry, is a peg-legged bouncer at a whore-house...more
Joanne
I couldn't finish this bloated sledgehammer of a book. The addition of super hero powers to a homeless suffering urchin made this story as fetid as the father's coat.
Ted
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
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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
More about Roddy Doyle...
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha The Commitments The Woman Who Walked Into Doors The Snapper The Van (movie tie-in)

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