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he: A Novel

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  727 ratings  ·  158 reviews

John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity and the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists.

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 lov

Paperback, 453 pages
Published August 24th 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
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4.02  · 
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 ·  727 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, wh ...more
Sep 24, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Now available in the UK and Ireland
Coming to the US and Canada in 2018

Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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".
Liz Barnsley
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rob Twinem
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 giv ...more
Orla McAlinden
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, fi
J.R. Stuart
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
John Ferrigno
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Breakaway Reviewers
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
Debbie Young
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:

trying much too hard to be clever
actually rather clever
Mairead Hearne (
‘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 h
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 con
Colin Hogan
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 ...more
Adam Burton
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 o
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Joh
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 bei
Patrick Barry
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 t ...more
Jon Recluse
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.
Mary Jo
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emma French
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nicola Henderson
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely book and I really enjoyed reading it. I watched Laurel and Hardy on a Saturday afternoon sometimes when I was young so it was nice to actually read about them.
The writing style occasionally annoyed me in bits but I couldn't put it down until I finished it and was in tears at the end so felt really immersed. It did well to put an insight into some pretty bizarre decisions in Laurel and Hardys private lives and also gave a good look at the beginnings of Hollywood & the characters invol
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has got to be one of my favourite reads of 2017. It is touching and uplifting but also at the same time frustrating. This book is a fictional account of the careers of Laurel and Hardy and the clever thing that John Connolly does is convey the love and mutual admiration both characters had for each other. You may also find yourself laughing out loud whilst reading this book which both Laurel and Hardy strived to do on the screen for so many years. Buy it and enjoy it.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
203. 'he loved this man,and this man loved him,and that is enough,more than enough.'
Helen Carolan
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really a fan of Connolly's Charlie Parker series, but I have liked his two books of ghost stories and this telling of the life of Stan Laurel is stunningly beautiful. Heartbreaking and funny it had me in tears from the very first page. It tells of Laurel's early start in vaudeville and his many marriages and the real love of his life Oliver Hardy. But in 20s and 30s Hollywood being openly in love with another man was frowned upon. The studio who seemed to be aware of what was happening c ...more
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book on a lot of different levels that takes you back to the first beginnings of cinema and paints a nuanced picture of Hollywood legend Stan Laurel and his relationship with his partner Oliver Hardy. We are introduced to a man who is by turns charming and infuriating, humble and ambitious, generous and selfish... As always, the author writes flowing prose that slips down as easily as cold orange juice on a hot day- you'll have 100 pages read before you know it, but at the same time ...more
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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 ...more
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“At the Oceana Apartments, he recollects leaving England in triumph, infused with a joy he has not felt in many years. England has reinvigorated them. England has given them hope.

But hope is a candle.

Hope burns, and then it is gone.”
“Death does not come quickly for Babe. Death pilfers Babe piece by piece, pound by pound.

But not before Babe conspires with Death in his own dissolution.

Babe opens the door, and Death steps through.”
More quotes…