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A Star Called Henry

(The Last Roundup #1)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  7,940 ratings  ·  554 reviews
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 fourteen years old and already six-foot-two, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army. A year later he's ...more
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Viking Adult (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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Jul 04, 2014 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
Feb 08, 2008 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
May 18, 2014 rated it liked it
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,
Mar 17, 2009 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
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
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry Smart is an unforgettable character, ranking in my book with the likes of Oscar Matzerath, Ignatius J. Reilly and Aureliano Buendia. And this book is a great primer on the Easter Rebellion and the Irish War of Independence, exposing oppressor and oppressed alike as cold blooded killers.

Henry Smart is an assassin, just like his one-legged father before him. Henry I kills for money while Henry II (or Third, because there were many dead babies in this indiscriminately fertile Irish family,
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Soumen Daschoudhury
May 29, 2015 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
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,
Ron Charles
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jordan Catapano
Dec 30, 2008 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
Feb 16, 2015 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.
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
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...?

May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one gnarly telling of how a Dublin kid got swept up into the developing storm of what led to the Easter Rising of 1916 when he was 14 years old. The book is rather long, raw, brutal and alarming when it is transparent to the reader how this unschooled youth is being manipulated by unscrupulous and power hungry adults.
"The bullets were constant. Anything moving was shot; anyone at a window was a sniper. Our last outposts were alone and falling. There were now twelve thousand soldiers in
Set in Ireland, Dublin mostly, in the beginning of 20th century, this is the story of Henry Smart, and the same time the story of Ireland willing for its independence. Born by a poor family and in fact becoming a man even before his teen years after loosing his parents, we 're following his adventures for survival around the slums of Dublin, his affairs, and later when he mix up with Irish "army", his fight for his country's independence. Simultaneously we face the rising of patriotic ...more
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 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 ...more
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 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 ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, war
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picaresque and bawdy with a larger-than-life protagonist; simultaneously entertaining and informative, especially in regards to the conditions leading up to and throughout the Irish revolution and how those conditions might plant the seeds for terrorism.
Helena McGarvey
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my very favorite books of all time.
Steve Shilstone
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From Dublin slums through the battle for Irish independence in the early 20th century, Henry Smart jigs a terrible lusty dance through life.
Oct 24, 2010 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
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 ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland-irish
A novel in four parts. In the first we meet Henry Smart, a street kid on the streets of Dublin, at the beginning of the 20th Century. His story is similar to that of Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes, the lanes of Limerick swapped for the streets of the Dublin slums. His father is a one legged bouncer for Dolly Oblong's brothel, where all the girls ("hoors") are called Maria. Like Frankie McCourt, Henry Smart has a younger brother die in the night, victim of the grinding Irish poverty.

In the
May 17, 2010 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 ...more
Oct 05, 2008 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 ...more
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Something Old, So...: March 2015 - A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle 5 7 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

Other books in the series

The Last Roundup (3 books)
  • Oh, Play That Thing
  • The Dead Republic
“Head in the book. Nose sliding down the valley between the pages.” 2 likes
“She was in the book again and, by the time she got to page-turning time again, she'd forgetting I was there.” 0 likes
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