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An extraordinary reimagining of the life of one of the greatest screen comedians the world has ever known: a man who knew both adoration and humiliation; who loved, and was loved in turn; who betrayed, and was betrayed; who never sought to cause pain to others, yet left a trail of affairs and broken marriages in his wake . . .

And whose life was ultimately defined by one relationship of such tenderness and devotion that only death could sever it: his partnership with the man he knew as Babe.

he is Stan Laurel.
But he did not really exist. Stan Laurel was a fiction.

With he, John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity, the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists, and one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history: Laurel &Hardy.

453 pages, Paperback

First published August 24, 2017

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About the author

John Connolly

149 books6,823 followers
John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.

He is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States.

This page is administered by John's assistant, Clair, on John's behalf. If you'd like to communicate with John directly, you can do so by writing to contact-at-johnconnollybooks.com, or by following him on Twitter at @JConnollyBooks.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See other authors with similar names.

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5 stars
386 (38%)
4 stars
369 (36%)
3 stars
179 (17%)
2 stars
52 (5%)
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29 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 211 reviews
Profile Image for Susan.
2,576 reviews601 followers
July 28, 2017
Author John Connolly is best known for the Charlie Parker novels. Oddly, even though I am a huge crime fan, I have never tried these, so I came to this book without any prior expectations or knowledge of his writing. This is a fictional biography of Stan Laurel; rather like Joyce Carol Oates similar book, “Blonde,” which took Marilyn Monroe as her subject. Although a fairly long read, it contains 203 very short chapters – some only a paragraph long – and is, subsequently, a fairly quick read, which keeps you engrossed.

Arthur Stanley Jefferson changed his name to Stan Laurel in 1931 and was, of course, famous for being one half of Laurel and Hardy – along with Oliver Hardy, or ‘Babe’ as he is known throughout this novel. Stan first went to America in 1910, along with the star of the show, Charlie Chaplin. Stan was a failure on the tour and returned to Britain, before returning to the States in 1912, again to understudy Chaplin.

Veering towards an elderly, dying Stan Laurel, now retired and living with his memories, and the reminiscences of his life, we are taken through his life, career, marriages and love affairs. There are his early struggles to find success. Obviously ambitious and longing for stardom, Stan longs to be Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, but realises he can’t do it alone. Enter Babe Hardy, ‘the funniest fat comedian in the world.’ A man who has had his own struggles but, in him, Stan finds his soul mate and, as becomes obvious, the person he loves most in the world. Babe, larger than life, drinks, gambles, plays golf and, along with Stan, finds stardom.

Along with the successes are difficulties, of course. We are taken through vaudeville, early Hollywood, divorces, contracts and film studio struggles. If you already know a lot about Stan Laurel’s life, this may not tell you too much you do not already know. However, this is obviously a fictional biography and I found it absolutely fascinating. Although I remember Laurel and Hardy films from my childhood (and my husband is a huge fan), I really did not know much about him at all. I enjoyed reading these recollections and memories; haunted by the ghosts of Stan’s son, who died at only nine days old, Charlie Chaplin and, always, and most movingly, Babe Hardy. A wonderful read and I must, finally, get to those Charlie Parker novels, as I loved John Connolly’s writing.


Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,161 reviews37 followers
July 19, 2018
What an extraordinary book! It took me some time to get used to the (to me) unusual writing style. From Oceana Apartments Stan Laurel looks back on his life. The story describes an era. From silent movies to speaking movies to television.
Stan Laurel seems an insecure man who doesn't really know how to live outside the theater. "All he ever wanted to be is like Chaplin".
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews256 followers
Want to read
September 25, 2017
Now available in the UK and Ireland
Coming to the US and Canada in 2018

Purchased.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,385 reviews977 followers
July 31, 2017
Beautifully done. I knew little to nothing about the focus of this fictional biography, Stan Laurel, apart of course from the obvious, this novel was an absolute delight to read. Beautiful beautiful writing, short, gorgeous emotionally resonant chapters and a real sense of the time period and of the man. His relationships, his career and of course his partner in comedy, who he knew as Babe, all shine from the pages here as John Connolly works his magic. Incredible.

Full review for publication.
Profile Image for Rob Twinem.
811 reviews35 followers
August 27, 2017
When I first heard that John Connolly had written a fictional account of the life of Stan Laurel, based on the latter's correspondence, I was very intrigued to acquire and read the book. I have the greatest admiration for JC but am more familiar with his creation the anti hero and very troubled detective Charlie Parker the series now having reached book No. 15, each one written with a flair and brilliance that has seen Connolly acclaimed both in Europe and the US, and rightly so. "He" a book giving the reader a glimpse into the amazing and often troubled life of a man who achieved fame and adulation in the early days of the "talkies" ...Stan Laurel. The he in the book is of course "him", the author never uses his stage name simply because Stan Laurel did not really exist and the true essence of the man is somewhere between Arthur Jefferson, his birth name, and his stage name. In order to construct and present Stan Laurel's story Connolly has utilized the massive correspondence that Laurel wrote in his lifetime, a correspondence that although give little if any insight into the true mind and workings of this comic genius, nevertheless presented the author with a blueprint for him to construct, mould and shape the life of Laurel and his undoubted love and respect for his comic partner Oliver "babe" Hardy.

This is a wonderful story a warm and affectionate analysis of a man whose existence was never dull, often sad (his son Stan Robert Laurel died at only 9 days old) his liberal attitude to alcohol and his many affairs including in total 4 wives. His only daughter Lois, a product of his first marriage, was born in 1927 and who recently died in July 2017. Reading "He" was akin to a walk through the old Hollywood from the popular birth of silent movies to the often painful upheaval that became the world of the talkies. Laurel and Hardy not only accepted this change but so much of their success happened after the talkie transition including such memorable classics as Way out West, and A chump at Oxford all under the guidance of renowned American Film Producer Hal Roach. "He" is centred around the Oceana apts in Santa Monica California where Laurel lived until his death, with his fourth wife Ida, and from this base SL reminisces on the events good and bad that shaped his life.

From reading the press release before the actual book launch John Connolly states that the idea behind this novel was born in 1999.( In the meantime we the reader have been enthralled by the adventures of former policeman Charlie Parker seeking some form of redemption following the murder of his wife and daughter). It is to the author's credit that "he" has been nurtured, developed, researched and planned as the final product is a work of such originality and imagination. It made me feel that I was eavesdropping into a time and place no longer with us and a world where I became privy to the conversations, the genius, the intellect, and the brilliance of the great Stan Laurel. Many thanks to the publisher Hodder and Stoughton for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.
Profile Image for Orla McAlinden.
Author 6 books25 followers
September 20, 2017
I appear to be very definitely in the minority, having scrolled through the reviews here, but I found this novel a bitter disappointment. Connolly has achieved what I could not previously have imagined possible; to take the stories of the world's first super-stars in one of the world's first mass media frenzies, the Golden Age of Hollywood, and to turn them into a dull and barely readable book.
I knew very little of the lives of Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, and was anticipating a fascinating, fictionalised account of their lives, full of period detail and lush description and lyricism.

What I have is a book. A book like this. A book of sentences. Sentences like this. I pick it up. I sigh. I put it down. I think, can I be bothered? I think, Connolly has millions of fans. It must be me. I must be too stupid. I pick up the book. It is not me. It is the book. I put it down.

Stylistically, I found the book pretentious, unrewarding, and trying way too hard to be clever. I honestly believe that had this manuscript been submitted to the same publisher, but written by an unknown author without Connolly's millions of fans, it would have been rejected out of hand. This is the first negative review I have ever written, normally I just accept that sometimes a book doesn't suit me, or I have chosen the wrong book. I usually review books only to share the joy I have found in them. I found no joy in reading this book.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,801 reviews481 followers
July 23, 2019
Stan Laurel may have had an interesting life, but I’ll never know because I couldn’t get through the writing style of this book. I didn’t like the short, choppy sentences and the short chapters (over 200 of them). There is also an irritating writing tic of repeating the full name of a character over and over. “Under the guidance of Hal Roach, Harold Lloyd begins to learn and develop. No longer content to imitate Chaplin, Harold Lloyd experiments with a new character. Harold Lloyd finds a pair of dark-framed glasses. Harold Lloyd picks up a boater. Aided by Hal Roche, Harold Lloyd becomes a star.”
I found the whole thing pretentious and off-putting. Abandoned after reading 25%.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for John Ferrigno.
Author 1 book8 followers
June 17, 2018
I wish I could give this book more than five stars.

he, a fictionalized account of the life of Stan Laurel, is a work of genius worthy of its subject matter.

Laurel and Hardy are one of the most beloved comedy duos of all time, their films bringing laughter and joy to millions over the years. However, behind the scenes, their lives were dramatic, depressing affairs. he is filled with sadness, frustration and complex emotions, as Stan Laurel goes through his life, feeling inadequate, fighting with his studios, self destructing under the weight of a string of horrible marriages and toxic relationships.

However, underneath the sadness is one blazing, ray of beauty: the incredible love shared between Laurel and Hardy.

he, above all else, is a tale of friendship, and how an almost unbelievable depth of love can define a life.

This is easily one of the best books I have ever read, one I am sure I will return to multiple times over the course of my life.
3 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2019
This is an absolutely outstanding and original biography and I simply could not put it down. I've passed in on to two dear friends. I don't want to spoil anything -just read it! I HIGHLY recommend it.
Profile Image for Kathy.
3,270 reviews172 followers
Read
November 22, 2018
I believe I chose a lemon. I was trying to make sense of this book, not having gotten too far into it, and decided to read reviews on Amazon. There I found a damning review by another author who wrote a "kinder" book on Laurel and Hardy entitled Laurel and Hardy: The Magic behind the Movies - and his review is titled "Scurrilous".
Harrumph! Or ZING?
I decided to return this Connolly book to the library before I got to the "scurrilous" parts as I actually have no real interest in Laurel and Hardy beyond their fine looking hats. Watching them on You Tube may be a tad more fun methinks.
Profile Image for Debbie Young.
Author 36 books199 followers
September 8, 2017
Well, this was a strange and interesting read, and I genuinely can't decide whether I love it or hate it - at times I did both. Hence the three star review. Here are the various other descriptions that sprang to mind as I whipped through it - because I certainly didn't want to put it down - some of which are contradictory, but I felt them all:

original
petty
breathtaking
trying much too hard to be clever
actually rather clever
unkind
disrespectful
intriguing
addictive
groundbreaking
pioneering
obsessive
guilty of so many sins of omission
unfair
biased
sweeping
repetitive
harping on
narrow
reductive
pretentious
mannered
irritating
engrossing
poignant
forced
moving
laboured
elegant
so, so irritating on the use of the godlike "He" for Laurel and full names for everyone else, often repeating the same name over and over again on the same page (Hal Roach did this, Hal Roach did that, oh my, Hal Roach again - I think we can be trusted to remember his surname if you just use his first now, thank very much)

Some of these adjectives will be offputting to some while a turn-on to others. Make of them what you will.

While I can't wholeheartedly recommend this as a book for Laurel and Hardy fans - of which I am a longstanding one - it's certainly thought-provoking and different, and it would make a great read for book clubs, because there is a great deal in his writing technique that would trigger discussion.

My immediate need afterwards was not to reach for more John Connolly books, but to ransack my other, broader books about Laurel and Hardy, and to watch the Sky Arts biopic, and, of course, to watch their timeless films, about which this book actually says very little.

Still, I'm glad I read it. I think.
Profile Image for Anne Griffin.
Author 3 books871 followers
July 30, 2019
Do love Laurel and Hardy? If so read this wonderful fictional depiction of Stan Laurel. Exceptionally moving. Made me fall in love with those wonderful actors all over again.
Profile Image for Elite Group.
3,031 reviews49 followers
September 14, 2017
Not necessarily a bad book; just not for me

I am a great fan of John Connolly and so looked forward to reading his latest book; especially when it clearly differed markedly from the books I have read before.

The 'He' of the title is Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy, and Connolly attempts to write a novel of his life and experiences 'warts and all' from the viewpoint of his love of the duo. In doing so he encounters the greats of the silent cinema; Chaplin, Keaton, Fred Karno and of course Hardy who he calls Babe. Throughout the book, Laurel is not mentioned by name but refers to himself as 'He'.

This is where I started having problems. The book claims to be a novel but reads like a memoir and it is impossible without further research to determine what is true and what is fiction. Therefore the reader doesn't know which of the character traits and behaviours of 'He' are real and which are from Connolly's imagination. Connolly seeks to construct the 'man unseen', his emotional complexity, love and regret, pain and loss; whether he has succeeded is in the mind of the reader.

The other problem for me was that nothing turns me off a book faster than eccentric punctuation, and the total lack of parenthesis I find a real problem.

In considering this review I wondered if it was 'just me' and so looked at what other reviewers had said. On Amazon, 8 people gave it 5 stars and 7 gave it 1 star, clearly, the readership is divided. In the spirit of fairness, I am taking the middle ground and giving it 3 stars and by doing so acknowledge the legitimacy of the work, but also my experience as a reader.

Pashtpaws

Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of this book to review
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,249 reviews285 followers
September 28, 2019
За съжаление - греда.

От любимият стил на писателя не виждам нищо в тази книга. Кратки и накъсани изречения, рядко носещи информация, заряд или каквото и да било.

Опит за биография и за опис на времето, в което е живял и творил един от най-известните комици на нямото кино- Стан Лаурел, редом и равен с титани като Чаплин, Кийтън и партьора си, Оливър Харди.

Неуспешен опит, поне за мен и като резултат се е получила скучна и трудно четима книга.
Profile Image for Jo.
3,221 reviews116 followers
August 10, 2020
An ageing performer looks back on his life and career. This is a novel based on Stan Laurel, one half of famous comedy duo Laurel & Hardy. I don't know much about their lives but it sounds like away from the cameras there was a lot of heartache. I didn't expect to enjoy it so much but the writing is lovely and there's a real flow to the narrative.
Profile Image for Andreas.
74 reviews4 followers
January 2, 2023
Hands down my favourite book on my reading list for 2022.

A fiction look at the life and times of Stan Laurel. Only referred to as "He" throughout the book and told through the perspective of Stan at the end of his life, the novel is full of stories, details and gossip.

A truly wonderful book, beautifully written.
December 7, 2017
‘He was famous once.

No, he and Babe were famous once. But now Babe is gone, and he is alone…

He and Babe.

Now only he.’


he:A Novel is a labour of love written by bestselling author John Connolly. John Connolly had a desire to write this novel after a meeting with book store manager, Sheldon McAuthur, while on tour in LA. Their conversation turned to Laurel & Hardy and so began, for John Connolly, a fascination with these two iconic figures, in particular that of Stan Laurel.

‘There seemed to hover a more elusive presence, a being of great emotional complexity, of pain and loss, of love and regret. This book is an attempt to capture that presence.’ John Connolly

Recently published by Hodder & Stoughton, he:A Novel has just won RTE Radio 1’s The Ryan Tubridy Show Listeners’ Choice Award at the recent BGE Irish Book Awards in Dublin.

Please read on for my thoughts….

Some time back I was in Waterstones in Cork when I heard mention of an event with John Connolly and his new novel, a book about Stan Laurel. I was immediately intrigued.

I attended the event, which included a short of Laurel & Hardy. John Connolly’s enthusiasm was so obvious and his passion for the subject was contagious. John Connolly does accept that ‘the version of Stan Laurel depicted is a construct, and one that I accept may not meet with unanimous approval’ With that in mind I approached this book with a very uncritical eye.

Like most of us I grew up watching old B & W sketches of Laurel & Hardy, Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and The Three Stooges. I laughed at the comedy and I enjoyed the slapstick of the moments caught, but I never once gave any thought to the person behind these characters. These were funny men. That’s all I knew.

In he:A Novel John Connolly portrays a very different image of these individuals. His words, while reimagined, are none the less very emotive.

In the novel, Stan Laurel is referred to as He. We travel on his journey with him from the vaudeville performances in the early days through to his days in Hollywood and beyond. We read about his many marriages, his failure to love and be loved, his constant need to be better, his apparent adulation of Charlie Chaplin and his love for his best friend ,Oliver Hardy.

For anyone with an encyclopedic knowledge of this era I have no doubt that there will be many criticisms. But for me, I approached this novel as one writer’s take on a subject he found particularly fascinating, not as a reference book for educational purposes.

Hal Roach, the American film and television producer, played a big role in the creation of Laurel & Hardy. He is depicted in this novel as quite a tough and hardened character who underpaid both actors and sought to keep them under his thumb during the years of making movies together.

Charlie Chaplin is portrayed as quite an unpleasant individual, with a lifestyle that was far from what the general public would have been aware of.

There are references to many great actors of the 1920’s and 1930’s following their tragic demise after the introduction of the ‘talkies’

We are introduced to Laurel & Hardy’s fascinating relationship with Ben Shipman, their lawyer and life-long friend, and how he made numerous attempts to keep their reputations intact.

Both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had tragedy in their lives, as is mentioned in the book. They both struggled in holding down relationships resulting in numerous marriages and huge alimony payouts.

They worked hard, played hard but I wonder did they ever truly find happiness?

he was one of the most famous screen comedians in the world

he was loved by millions

he was divorced four times

he was betrayed by his idol

he lost a fortune

he lost his greatest friend

he is Stan Laurel’


This book brings us to the last days of Stan Laurel’s life as he looks back over his career. He is a sad man with very many regrets, a man who wishes life had been different. A man who is nothing without his best friend. This is his story, as reimagined by John Connolly.

he:A Novel is written in a style that may not be to everyone’s taste. Sentences are short, staccato, which for me were reminiscent of the style of ‘speech’ used in the early movies. There is quite a liberal use of the F-word with sexual connotations. which may be offensive to some.

he:A Novel is a book that needs to be read slowly. It takes the reader on a journey back to The Golden Age of Hollywood, with a look back at the demise of the silent movie and the impact it had on all those involved.

he:A Novel is a difficult book to box off into any particular genre. It is biographical with a creative twist. It is historical fiction. It is really John Connolly’s tribute to the man, Stan Laurel, that he respected for his art, his humour and most of all his legacy.

I’ll leave you with John Connolly’s words ~ ‘by the end of writing this book, I loved Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy more than ever, with their flaws, in all their humanity, and my admiration for their artistry had only increased.’
Profile Image for Adam Burton.
41 reviews12 followers
October 19, 2018
I attribute the mostly-good feeling I have about this book to the compelling nature of the relationship between Stan and Babe(Ollie), as imagined by Connolly. The only people who can definitively say how accurate this portrayal ultimately is, are sadly long demised, but the author's version feels apt, and is a pleasure to experience.

I do have issues, however. This having been the only thing by Connolly I've ever read, I don't know if the stylistic choices he made here are typical, but a couple of things were a bit tiresome. First, the maddening repetition of full names. Christ on a bike, you don't have to tell me that studio mogul Hal's last name is Roach every time you mention him; I got it the first time. I certainly don't need to see it in full multiple times in the same sentence. That's just one example; Only Stan is completely free of this tic, mainly because, being the protagonist, he is only referred to throughout the novel as "he." Eventually, Babe Hardy is just Babe, but I'm pretty sure he gets the full name treatment in the beginning.

Think I'm exaggerating? Consider the following excerpt:

"In 1915 alone, Broncho Billy Anderson releases more than thirty Broncho Billy westerns. After a while, even Broncho Billy Anderson gets tired of Broncho Billy, so Broncho Billy Anderson departs for New York to become a theater impresario."

Holy butt-blasting bilabial fricatives, could ya replace a few of those with some pronouns?

The other thing that diminished my joy is the amount of ink spilled on Stan's sex life. Now, I'm no prude, and I totally get that to examine his many failed relationships with women is a decision to humanize and satisfyingly flesh out the the man behind the movie character he played, but I really feel that there was a way to do that without implanting images in my head of Stan Laurel "licking nipples" and "moving inside" people. I think his human frailty could have been adequately expressed without being gross. I realize I probably sound like a schoolmarm here, but I don't care; it felt off to me.

Issues aside, I'm glad I read he. If you're looking for facts, you shouldn't be reading a novel, frankly, though Connolly clearly grounds his book in solid research. If you're wanting to read a celebration of two complicated but ultimately kind-hearted men who found in each other the greatest (platonic) loves of their lives, then you might find a lot to like here.
Profile Image for Trish.
365 reviews6 followers
November 23, 2017
I love John Connolly's Charlie Parker series and spend months with tongue hanging out when I know there's a new one on the way!

This novel is a standalone, and I'm always nervous about taking on a standalone, because you know what to expect in the usual series - and it is scary moving outside the box and experimenting with your author's wayward effort!

However, I LOVED THIS BOOK! The title character 'HE' that John writes about is Stan Laurel of the famous Laurel and Hardy act. It is clear that John loves these characters! I was nervous for John that in his excitement and passion for the subject that he'd jumped in too deep and wouldn't be able to do the story justice, but he has.

A lot of research has gone into this fictionalized imagination of Stan Laurel's life, his thoughts and emotions, his dreams and despairs and it is such a moving interpretation.

I'm of course aware of Laurel and Hardy, but have usually moved passed them if they appear on the TV. But I will now not only stay with them when they appear on screen, but I'll actively seek them out!

These two men worked very hard to achieve success, they were practically middle-aged by the time the movie success came along - and the adulation of 'the Audience' was short lived. They evolved from silent movie slapstick gags to talking movies. They moved from short movies of less than 30 minutes to feature length movies. Their greatest successes came when they had creative control, and their success gradually waned as studios became more budget conscious and specialist driven and the boys lost the ability to control their art.

Laurel and Hardy were great and loving friends and through all their trials and tribulations, they had each others' backs, always.

Very close to the end of the book, at page 442, I wrote myself a note - "At this point, my heart is broken for them both; especially for Stan. Such a long and hard road to reach great heights, and then the slow descent to obscurity. With the faculties to know what they've lost, what could have and should have been done differently, and now stymied by age, ill-health, reduced funds and opportunities."

The writing style is interesting and took a while to get into, but if you're at all interested in the subject - or even a clear and empathetic imagining of the rise and decline of two 'normal' but magical men - then the read is worth the effort.
3 reviews
September 22, 2017
Laurel and Hardy made me laugh on TV when I was a child.
Later they make me smile and feeling nostalgic.
This novel is about Stan, the foolish, depressing person behind a comic genius.
The short sentences and chapters give the illusion of a fast paced novel. But it's full of repetitive. Their intention is not quite clear. They add a lot of fluff and they lack the human emotion. "He" is observed like a squirrel in a cage torn between his loyalty and affection for his partner Oliver, his harsh contracts to a greedy studio, his poor choices of wives, his costly divorces and his overwhelmed lawyer. It only goes downhill most of his life and it makes a long depressing read.
As an antidote I ordered a few DVDs to get back my mental picture of the pair...
192 reviews
July 18, 2017
Opening chapters felt as if were written as the start of "the grand novel." Instead I found it rather contrived, used unnecessary complex vocabulary & sentence structure, & was difficult to access. Indeed it took a number of attempts to get further into the book. Fortunately things did calm down after this with only the occasional over elaborate description. Unfortunately it also became a fairly standard biography (although perhaps more accurately imagined autobiography) & ultimately a never ending series of names of people in his life.
Profile Image for Amy.
790 reviews48 followers
January 22, 2019
AHHH! I loved this book so much!

I've watched tons of Laurel & Hardy shorts but I never knew much about the men under the tiny bowler hats. This is a fictionalization of Laurel's life (and end of life), true, but it really brought both funnymen to life. And their lives were not funny. This is a sad and melancholy. The ending was crushing. But despite all of Laurel's marriages and love affairs, this novel has "Babe" Oliver Hardy as Laurel's one true love -- their friendship and partnership being the one thing the dying Laurel holds on to in his last days. Beautifully written & brilliantly executed (seriously, this is BY FAR the best fictionalization of an Old Hollywood star I've ever read...and I've read A LOT), this is a must-read for fans of Classic Hollywood or anyone wanting a story about the power of love and friendship.
Profile Image for Jon Recluse.
381 reviews244 followers
August 16, 2018
John Connolly continues to astound with this fictionalized stream of consciousness reminiscence, as an elderly Stan Laurel looks back on his life, loves, career and his deep friendship with the man he knew as Babe, his comedic partner Oliver Hardy.

Remarkably even-handed in it's portrayal of Stan and the people he knew, offering up the highs and the lows, the good and the bad, the human side of the equation with an openness and respect that reveals the man behind the legend.

Highly recommended.
80 reviews
September 26, 2018
Very unusual take on a fictional bio of real people. Not once did Connolly or any of the people in the book say the name Stan Laurel. Always referred as "He, him, his" and any form of it. Friends to the end their lives were fraught(yes, I used the word fraught) with difficulties of their own doing. Many wives, many bad choices along the way yet they became the beloved comedy duo. It's a pretty sad story that shows the early beginnings of the world of movies and celebrity. I liked it because of the unusual format.
Profile Image for Patrick Barry.
894 reviews7 followers
April 21, 2019
he is the story of Stan Laurel. Laurel's name is never invoked much as is is typically referred to as he, hence the title. This book examines Laurel's many talents, foibles and loves, most particular his love for his comedic partner Oliver "Babe" Hardy. His foibles; 8 marriages, 7 which end disastrously, create many problems in his working life. Still Babe stands by him even as producer Hal Roach eventually gets fed up. It's a love story of sorts, but also the story of how well intentioned men, in different ways, came make a mess of their lives. It is novel and the Laurel is an author construct, but the tale rings true.
Profile Image for Mallory Walsh.
23 reviews2 followers
May 14, 2018
I will admit that the only reason I purchased this book was because John was doing a book tour and it gave me the opportunity to finally meet him! John had quickly become one of my favorite authors, so I was excited to meet him. After hearing him discuss what this book was about and his 10 year process of writing it, I was intrigued.

Not really knowing who Laurel and Hardy were, I didn’t know what to expect. This book, however, is so beautifully written, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know these men before, but I do now. John wrote this so well, I really feel as if I stepped into their lives. I felt the emotions they appeared to go through. Their love for one another.

If you’re a fan of John, and if you are or even if you’re not a fan of Laurel and Hardy, I recommend giving this book a read. It may surprise you! Beautiful, beautiful written book!
Profile Image for Mary Jo.
510 reviews
August 16, 2018
The fourth star is probably generous. I thought the writing style was a fun change up from my usual read. It definitely peeked my interest in Laurel and Hardy and Hal Roach studios, I had to do some further investigation. By the end of the book I was ready for it to be over. I don't know if it was because it was depressing or I was simply tired of the writing style and the continuous use of the
f word. Maybe it was the vernacular of the day, I just found it tiresome after awhile.
Profile Image for Emma French.
76 reviews1 follower
July 28, 2018
Once used to the style (Stan Laurel is always he, so others always have their names written in full), this is an amazing book, full of wonderful details, scandalous details and is hugely enjoyable. Whilst a work of fiction, I learnt a lot about Laurel and Hardy I never knew before and will approach them with fresh eyes. Would heartily recommend.
Profile Image for Lee.
35 reviews
June 21, 2018
I am only in the first third of this book, taking my time because I love it so much (plus, I am a slow reader). But I do love it. It tells the story of Stan Laural and Oliver Hardy (Babe) beginning after Babe' death. It also tells of the history of Vaudeville, Burlesque and movies.
I will let you know more after I finish.
Profile Image for Caroline.
614 reviews10 followers
September 13, 2017
I'm a huge fan of John Connolly's Charlie Parker series. When word came out about this book I wasn't sure what to expect. I can safely say I wasn't disappointed.
This is a beautifully written book about Stan Laurel, a brilliant mingling of fact and fiction. Having laughed at the antics of Stan and Ollie when I was a child, this book brought a tear or two to my eyes.
With "He" John Connolly has proved that he is a master storyteller in any genre.
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