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Old 4th May 2008, 9:03   #1
Colyngbourne
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Default Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

Erm, it's looking like it might be lonely discussing this one with myself. Anyone else in the running?

I've never read any Roddy Doyle before so was pleasantly impressed by the first half of the book: "a proper story going on" was my initial reaction. And once you've got past the grime and the squalid survival tactics of the young Henry Smart (rapscallion is too polite a word for what he is), it starts getting all political which is fascinating but only so far. I can fairly state that I know/knew next to nothing about the beginnings of Irish independence and the Easter risings other than from the film Michael Collins, watched a decade ago, and snippets picked up from Mr Col's mother, who is related to Collins - some cousiny link in the great-great-ancestry - and who likes to read lots of books on Irish history, unlike me.

I have to say that were it not for the idea of Liam Neeson's face, propelling me through the political bits, I would have got more fed up with the story than I did. It seemed to lose its focus half-way through and Henry turned from a fascinating rough with an insight into the class differences in the struggles, into a thuggish tool for the powers-that-be. His incipient fame as a folk legend in the fight for independence is so quickly submersed by the realpolitik, and he loses his focus and meaning as the years go by. Inevitably, even by the ripe old age of 20, he is setting towards settling-down and realising his mistakes.

For me, the character wasn't consistent enough - the water divining became suddenly evident in the last chapters, where never really mentioned before; he had so many unfeasible lucky breaks and the romance with Miss O'Shea was overcooked. Once Henry's star was no longer at the centre of things, he was a far less interesting character and more of an automaton: the reader no longer saw into the heart of his motivation or his understanding of how the new country would form from its beginnings. I could cope with him being cocky and arrogant and hair-raising but not with him being so clever in one way and unthinking in another.

I'm going to rewatch Michael Collins on Bank Holiday Monday.

½ for the whole, for the first half.
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Old 4th May 2008, 10:22   #2
John Self
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

Ooer, I completely forgot about this! I am quite keen to read it - I think it was my suggestion, after loving Paula Spencer - so I will try to get to it soon.

I know that A Star Called Henry was generally more widely acclaimed than the second volume, Oh Play That Thing. I wonder if Doyle is even going to finish the trilogy, as since the first and second volumes (which were published consecutively) he has published a memoir, another novel, a book of short stories, and a children's novel.
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Old 4th May 2008, 10:24   #3
Colyngbourne
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

The second one is set in the States, with Henry picking up with Louis Armstrong in his early days. No way I would follow this series really. The fascination was with the social and political background of the times, as particularly seen through the young eyes of Henry. Once he's grown and more worldly wise, he's actually quite a tedious narrator.
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Old 4th May 2008, 11:31   #4
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

I had forgotten too, but count me in. I'll start it today.

Edit: Oops, not today... must read library copy of Born Yesterday first...
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Old 4th May 2008, 14:09   #5
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

I'd love to join in but won't have the time this month to wrestle with interlibrary loan. Or I could blame it all on kirsty!
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Old 5th May 2008, 13:55   #6
bill
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

I read this book several years ago, and thought very highly of it. I am generally speaking a big fan of Doyle's, although there are still a few of his novels left for me to read (Oh Play That Thing being one of them).

But, as I say, it has been a number of years since I read A Star Called Henry, and I don't know how much I can participate in the discussion. I do remember that this was quite a departure for Doyle. After reading the everday-comedy of the Barrytown novels, and the more grimly realistic Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, the richness of language, and wildness of story, found in A Star Called Henry was both jarring and exciting. I do know a bit about Irish history, and find it fascinating, so all of that was a plus for me.

But there was a moment towards the end, in one of the very last scenes -- during the climax, really -- that I simply didn't understand. I remember flipping back through the book for some clue, and coming up empty. My memory of the details is a bit hazy, but to even be vague about what I remember would be getting into some major spoiler territory. When I get home, maybe I'll take the book off the shelf and post a spoiler comment, so Colyngbourne, or someone else, can finally clear this up for me.

At any rate, I thought the book, as I remember, was at least a .
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Old 11th Jun 2008, 7:47   #7
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

I started reading A Star Called Henry yesterday and it's going very well - very vigorous prose, maybe I won't give it the highest rating but I don't have to force myself to read.

It's my first exposure to Roddy Doyle, apart from the film "The Snapper".
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Old 16th Jul 2008, 18:38   #8
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Default Re: Book 53: A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle

I don't know if it appropriate to jump to old book discussion like that ,a wack behind the head if it's not.


I lived a year in Cork and my wife is Irish so i'm sort of interested in local product,Doyle is certainly on of the tastier home-brew.
I read most of his work (not his parents story,or the woman who walked into door)and re-read the Snapper regularly.
I listen to A star call Henry in audio read by the man himself,and it was a wonderfull introduction to the history of the country a that time.The reproche one can do to Doyle is to be a bit to gifted with words which sometime get your head spining.Very few pause,load of images,it even worst in "Oh play that thing",i just gave up before the end.
Funny enough it's the same reproche i would make about Pratchett(whom i like less),this proficency.
The audio version is even better than the paper for Doyle is a fantastic reader.
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