A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle is a New York Times Editor’s Choice award winning book is a Penguin Classic that was published over 16 years ago and it still has cache today.
Doyle has a voice that is compelling and draws you into the life of Melody and Henry Smart who live in Ireland.Even through the vivid recounting of rough times, heart-wrenching miscarriages and stillborn children you root for this couple.The reader is rewarded by the birth of baby Henry Smart who is the picture of health in all of the poverty artfully portrayed by Doyle in a colloquial, yet literary manner.
Young Henry Smart’s life parallels Ireland’s campaign for freedom from British rule and Henry is somehow a part of every important phase of the Revolution.It reminded me of the movie Forrest Gump and how Forrest was inserted in all of the important movements and moments in American history in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.However, A Star Called Henry is nowhere near the campiness of Gump.It is at once surreal, poignant, literary and gritty due to the Irish brogue voice Doyle utilizes throughout the book.
There’s one passage on page 208 that gripped me and encapsulated the entire struggle for independence and the inner machinations of the British Empire at the time.This one passage left a great impression on me.It is:
“And the British would hit back; they’d over-react.They always did.Over the next four years, they never let us down.It wasn’t that they made bad judgments, got the mood of the country wrong: they never judged at all.They never considered the mood of the country worth judging.They made rebels of thousands of quiet people who’d never thought beyond their garden gates.They were always our greatest ally; we could never have done it without them.” – Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry
This is the type of book I read – one full of insight, humor, and the realities of life of those less than privileged.It is definitely rough reading at times however there’s a wonderful payoff when you finish the book.