cover image A Star Called Henry

A Star Called Henry

Roddy Doyle. Penguin Audiobooks, $25.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-14-180082-0

Hardy Irishman Doyle delivers his prose in a mellifluous outpouring, gentle in its use of language but harsh in its cutting observations. The beauty of Doyle's words, heightened in spoken presentation, is especially affecting in the opening section, which describes the tough childhood of his Dublin hero, Henry Smart (strongly evoking Dickens and Joyce). Henry is an orphan, left behind by his mother--""ruined beyond repair"" at his birth. His father, a one-legged enforcer at a local brothel, doesn't last long either. Living on the streets at age nine, Henry is the sole protector of his consumptive younger brother. His circumstances never get him down, though, because he knows that he is ""the brightest spark in a city full of bright and desperate sparks."" As the plot develops (Henry takes part in the 1916 Easter uprising and joins the fledgling Irish Republican Army, evolving into a warrior and a leader), Doyle's story becomes more linear, more like a standard action thriller. Yet he never fails listeners with his strong storytelling skills, which will keep all keenly tuned. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover. (Sept.)