Thursday, March 24, 2011

BOOK: A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle

A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle, 342 pages

Irish Reading Challenge

Beginning in 1901 with the birth of Henry Smart in the slums of Dublin, A Star Called Henry follows the beginnings of the Irish Independence struggle through one homeless child. Homeless child makes Henry sound helpless, and he was far from helpless. At the age of fifteen, he was in the Post Office on Easter Monday in 1916 as part of the IRA and much of his adventures had an unreal quality to them. Historical fiction of a real event told through a fictional character's involvement.

Doyle doesn't use quotation marks for dialogue, which always makes reading more of a challenge to me. He also has a stream of conscience style writing, and, added to Henry's unreal type life, made this a bit of a difficult slog. I liked it in parts, but it was always a bit of a struggle. Every now and then I could get into the story, and follow what happened, but then there would be more fighting or training, and I lost interest. Finally, at around page 230, I said enough, and skimmed the rest. Lots of memorable characters including Missus O'Shea, Henry's teacher, or Granny Nash, Henry's crazy, reading maniac grandmother, along with real life names like Michael Collins and deValera, were only seen through how they affected Henry, so didn't really have any role, other than as characters. No development of them except as interactions with Henry.

Doyle has a characteristic style, so if you appreciate it, you might enjoy this book. (Booker Prize winner 1993 Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, or The Woman Who Walked Into Doors) With the look at the desperate poverty (reminded me of Angela's Ashes) to the view of the Irish Independence fight this book will appeal to some people. I liked the topic, just not the manner in which it was delivered.