A Star Called HenryBook - 1999 | 1st Canadian ed. --
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A STAR CALLED HENRY (Penguin Books, $14.00) is the fictional account of Henry Smart III (a debatable designation there being so many Henry Smarts, dead and all but forgotten before him). Celebrated as a baby for his glowing health, he bounces into manhood at the young age of fourteen, making his name in the struggle for Irish independence. Doyle does an impressive job of creating a world - and characters - of mythic proportions which he balances against a backdrop mythic in itself: the Irish Revolution.
There appears no limit to the lengths Doyle will go to create a story that is: a) larger than life; b) will hold the reader's attention. He achieves both successfully by infusing his characters with unlikely strengths. A one-legged man, a limiting disability in the hands of less imaginative writers, becomes the fiercest fighter in the street. And handsome, even as he is lying in the mud. Henry's mother, Melody - who in a twist of irony has no music in her life - might as well have mothered all the Irish, so many lads and lassies she's brought into the world, only to have them die of consumption or an arms-length list of other diseases. So many lost; enough to fill the sky with stars.
HENRY is a deconstruction of Ireland's history, reassembled with a mythology of Doyle's own making. He imbues battle scenes with magic; exaggeration to every escape; embellishment of all kind and nature. Not even Dublin's mud retains the essence of run-of-the-mill mud in Doyle's hands.
With HENRY, Roddy Doyle has delivered a classic yarn, and with it, his place in Irish literature secured.
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