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Stars and Bars

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,004 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Sharply observed and brilliantly plotted, Stars and Bars is an uproarious portrait of culture clash deep in the heart of the American South, by one of contemporary literature’s most imaginative novelists.

A recent transfer to Manhattan has inspired art assessor Henderson Dores to shed his British reserve and aspire to the impulsive and breezy nature of Americans. But when L
Paperback, 348 pages
Published 1985 by Penguin (first published January 1st 1984)
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Aug 31, 2009 rated it did not like it
The best thing I can say about this book is that I got in on sale at a used bookstore for less than $4. The story follows Henderson Dores, an English expatriate working in New York at an auction house (think Christie's), as he travels to Georgia to acquire artwork from an eccentric millionaire. Of course I was expecting some good-natured joshing on the South--something akin to My Cousin Vinnie or that Reese Witherspoon movie. Boyd's portrayal of Georgia, however, is more along the lines of Deliv ...more
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I love the books of William Boyd. His Any Human Heart is one of my top favorite novels, up there with Kavalier and Clay, Atonement and Cloud Atlas. His Ice Cream War, set in the little known African theater of World War One, is among the finest of the war/imperial novels, right up there with anything by JG Farrell. A Good Man in Africa is right up there with Graham Greene's great ones. Armadillo is a well constructed examination of identity and the idea of Englishness.

Stars and Bars, which I jus
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have liked to have given this tragicomedy or comic tragedy 4.5 stars. But not 5 stars, as it does not quite reach that level of excellence. I enjoyed it, and was unable to put it down.

Henderson Dores, a British art-historian works for an art gallery in Manhattan. He wants to remarry his ex-wife, but is also reluctant to give up his relationship with his lover, Irene. His ex-wife will take him back but only when her two adolescent children from another marriage are prepared to accept him.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
I have just counted up the number of books written by William Boyd - 17 in the 30 years! That is prolific by anyone's standards. This novel is his 4th, published in 1984 and the 7th of his books I have read. Apart from Harry Potter books and Enid Blyton decades ago, I don't think I have read so many books by the same author. He really is very good. His stories full of interesting characters, trying to go about their normal lives but then finding themselves in difficult circumstances that somehow ...more
Philip Booth
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very funny, very literate fish-out-of-water story concerning a Brit-born art dealer, "an Impressionist man," now in NYC, forced to take a trip to the Deep South to corral the purchase of several million dollars' worth of paintings.
He's recently begun a relationship with his ex-wife, who -- in the 15 years' interim -- married and divorced and has two kids, one a sulking 14-year-old girl. The protagonist is also in a relationship with another woman; neither woman is aware of the other's existence
Mar 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Tedious, forced, painfully irritating.

Wow. I managed to get to chapter 14 and then just gave up. I decided that staring at the horizon until it got dark was a better option. That actually was what I did in the end.

I work offshore and the book just ground me down over a day with its weak plot which reads like some form of 1990's sitcom and its improbable (and impressively annoying) character names. I read often and have never submitted a review before. Yet Boyd has changed all that I have taken
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Perhaps this fairly amusing novel could be seen as a kind of 20th-century corrective to Henry James, whose theme of innocent Americans floundering in ultra-sophisticated Europe is here turned on its head: sophisticated Brit art historian gets flummoxed by the outwardly Beverly Hillbillies-like rubes in Luxora Beach, GA who turn out to be grasping and corrupt, and rake him over pretty thoroughly. leaving him estranged from ex-wife and girlfriend, out of a job, and creeping uptown along Park Ave. ...more
Jun 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
I've enjoyed quite a few of William Boyd's books, but I found this early effort downright odd. It's allegedly a comedy but I suppose I just didn't get the humour, which led to me finding it pretty dull
Feb 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Early work, feeble attempt at parody of brash americans and wimpy Englishmen. Tom Sharpe would be embarrassed.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Stars and stripes. What has the land of the free got for a shy art expert-Impressionist man-from Britain inclined to be the gentleman despite of himself? Ambition will always face crippling turns.
It turns out funnier and more duelling after the pace is set.
Tim Armstrong
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This is the first Boyd book I read, and my memories are old. I liked the story - it was full and slightly out there, but compared to later books Boyd was only feeling his way. Over time Boyd just got better and better.
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Years ago, I was assigned to interview Boyd for a film magazine on the topic of adapting books into screenplays, and dutifully picked up A Good Man in Africa to try and come up with some half-decent questions. While that book wasn't brilliant, it was awfully good and led me pick up others of his, and in the course of that, he's developed into one of my favorite writers. I realized the other day that I still hadn't gone back to read some of his older books, so I pick this one -- which came out in ...more
Aug 15, 2016 rated it liked it
“The best often seem the worst”
― William Boyd

Henderson Dores, an English art historian fast approaching 40 has moved to New York in the belief that America will change not only his life but also his character. There he works for an auction house as a valuer.Henderson is a stereo-typically inept British gentleman constantly getting the wrong end of the stick, and getting into awkward situations entirely due to his own fault. In New York, he has become re-engaged with his ex-wife but is also invo
Manda Graham
Nov 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I have read a few books by Boyd before and have rated Any Human Heart as 5/5 - since then I have read The Blue Afternoon, New Confessions and this, but none of them have lived up to Any Human Heart which I really loved. In some ways I felt that Stars and Bars came closer than the other two, but still wavered between and 3 and a 4 star rating. It gripped me, I found Henderson Dores frustrating, pathetic and overly sexed (as most of Boyd's characters), but just couldn't believe a lot of the situat ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
After having read Boyd's Any Human Heart I ventured further into his literary catalogue, picking Stars and Bars. I was aware that with this one I could expect less of the serious writing and more of the chaotic, humerous and rather silly. I enjoyed about twenty pages, then I just wished it was over.
This might have come down to my personal very strong dislike of stories where the main character entangles themselves further and further into ridiculous situations instead of pulling the plug and le
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amusing fish out of water tale as a very proper and somewhat shy English art appraiser comes to New York to work for an art dealer and perhaps see if he can stop being so shy and proper. Complications ensue in New York with an ex-wife he apparently wants to remarry and a mistress. Chaos follows as he is sent to the wilds of Alabama to try to acquire a prize collection from an eccentric collector, whose family may not be enthusiastic about such a sale.
David Whittlestone
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: light-reading
Like all Boyd's novels, this is a well-written, fast moving story that I found captivating. I admit to being a fan of Boyd's but I still find his stories totally absorbing and his writing easy and attractive.

In this novel, the setting in USA strains Boyd a little so that early parts are a little clunky, but they are in the past by the time the story really gets into its stride and for the most part the book is a good tale well told.
Mark Speed
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Following on the heels of A Good Man in Africa, Boyd transports another awkward Brit to a former colony: the USA. It doesn't quite work. You'll see on Wikipedia that it's the one Boyd novel that isn't loved enough to have its own page. Other, worse, stories do. But then that's the separation between fans of early and late Boyd.
Maria Hardie
Sep 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Different to other William Boyd books I have read. Less serious, more ordinary but readable enough. It could make quite an amusing film - the British character sees himself as shy and wants to be more like the more confident-seeming Americans. He is trying to maintain two relationships with women, has a teen girl tagging along with him, and goes to value paintings and gets embroiled in an amusing mess.
Henry Withers
May 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
this is a terrible book, I can't believe I read it.
it has the most ridiculous plot line,
and the most misleading title I have ever seen - Boyd chose to call the book 'Stars and Bars', before going on to describe one guy going into the large home of a very eccentric family and having some over the top adventures. absolutely nothing to do with stars or bars.
Basia Korzeniowska
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Not his best book. Very funny in places and especially good when describing the scenery and weather. But the story is too far fetched and the set pieces don't always quite work. Very unsatisfactory ending. But then I looked at when he wrote it and it was over thirty years ago. So one of his earlier efforts. He's still one of my favourite authors though because when it's right it's brilliant!
Oct 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Absolutely delightful! It doesn't matter if you're American or British, this book is funny. The reviewers who said they were not amused, obviously do not have a sense of humor. I could totally relate to Boyd's description of Henderson as an insomniac, and laughed out loud as I was reading this in the middle of the night when, what else...I could not sleep.
Derek Baldwin
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Perhaps not as comical as some reviews would suggest but this story of an Englishman completely overtaken by events in the US of A is good fun and a very easy read. Some clumsy bits of writing here and there but they're easy to skip through without losing the thread.
Precious Williams
Nov 30, 2009 marked it as to-read
Obviously he's been around for a long time and has won some very significant awards - but I've only just 'discovered' him. So far I've dipped into 'Ordinary Thunderstorms' and I'm very impressed. I'm expecting incredible things :)
Nov 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
An attempt at comedy that I found didn't really work. Bizarre story, strange unbelievable characters and ridiculous interactions. A disappointment after reading and enjoying some of his other books, but maybe I just missed the point somewhere.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have been unable to make my way through any of Boyd's more highly acclaimed and epic novels, but this fish-out-of-water farce about a desperate and lost Brit in the American south is hysterically funny and insightful.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Später würde er bedauern, daß er es nicht versucht hatte, das wußte er jetzt schon. Das war das Typische an der Zurückhaltung: sie ging mit dem Bedauern Hand in Hand. Hinterher war man trauriger, aber nicht weiser; man wußte nie, was hätte sein können."
John Caulfield
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable farce that had been laughing out loud in parts - very unusual for me. By the end, though, I thought the catastrophes had got a bit over the top. Overall, an enjoyable read, with some astonishing and truly memorable characters and scenes.
Apr 01, 2012 rated it liked it
An Englishman's satirical (pastiche?) take on mid-80s America. A ludicrous plot, but funny. Full of strange, specific characters who are never boring. The plot charges ahead. I'll read more from this guy.
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a good read -- the ending was amazing. Not my favorite William Boyd book, but I'm sure it was appealing to some. Crazy characters and somewhat funny -- Mr. Boyd is a good storyteller. I read in a previous review that this was a movie with Daniel Day Lewis playing the main character.
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Note: William^^Boyd

Of Scottish descent, Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana on 7th March, 1952 and spent much of his early life there and in Nigeria where his mother was a teacher and his father, a doctor. Boyd was in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the brutal secessionist conflict which ran from 1967 to 1970 and it had a profound effect on him.

At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in
More about William Boyd...

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