A STAR CALLED HENRY by Roddy Doyle (hier online bestellen)

The story:
Born in the slums, raised on the streets, caught up in the fight for a free Ireland at the age of fourteen, Henry Smart is, indisputably, a survivor. A Star Called Henry describes the first twenty years of Henry's adventure-filled life in early twentieth-century Ireland. Using a compelling first-person fictional narrative, Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle lets Henry tell his own story, revealing this young man's heroism, as well as the tumultuous era in which he lived.

Henry stood out from the moment he was born. "I glowed guaranteed life," he boasts. In Ireland's tuberculosis-ridden slums in the early 1900s, healthy babies were rare. But beyond this gift, there is little in Henry's life to call miraculous. His father works as bouncer and a hit man at a local brothel. He has a wooden leg, which he uses as a weapon as well as a prosthesis. Henry's mother is already old at age twenty, beaten down by poverty and by the deaths of so many of her children. Henry's name is the same as one of these dead babies, and neither parent can bring themselves to use it. "I was Henry but they never called me that," Henry explains. "She wouldn't; he couldn't . . . . So they called me nothing."

Denied the use of his name as well as any material or maternal comforts, Henry ends up, by age three, spending most of his time on the streets, accompanied by his beloved younger brother, Victor. Life is marginally better here than in their home, until the day that the "rozzers" (police) nearly catch him after he heckles the King of England. Henry's father spots his sons running away and leads them to an escape route he knows well—the rushing underground rivers of the Dublin sewers. After this, Henry never sees his father again, though the sewers prove useful to him many times in the future. Henry's father leaves him another gift—his spare wooden leg. The leg will become his constant companion, aiding him in the service of war, romance, and disguise, long after he leaves home.

On the streets Henry learns to stay alive by taking advantage of whatever situation presents itself: he sells rats to rich men for betting races, he herds cattle for drovers, he learns to pick pockets. As the seeds of rebellion take hold in the city, Henry eagerly offers his services. He is paid to pour tar on cows owned by absentee landlords and sells week-old newspapers to Dubliners hungry for news of uprisings.

Henry's life is soon dominated by Irish politics. The early 1900s was a period of tumult for Ireland. The nationalist movement was gaining momentum backed by the guerilla warfare tactics of the newly-former I.R.A. Henry's strength, toughness, and street smarts are a useful resource to the Irish rebel leaders, including the renowned real-life rebel, Michael Collins. Collins, Padraig Pearse, and James Connelly use Henry to train young fighters and to blow up buildings. Eventually, Henry becomes an assassin for the republic, wielding the wooden leg as a murder weapon.

Though exhilarated by the excitement of his work and the cause, Henry is too smart to ignore the hypocrisies of the revolutionaries and his own tenuous role in the activities. "I was shaping the fate of my country, . . . but, actually, I was excluded from everything. . . . the men of the slums and hovels . . . were nameless and expendable . . . We followed orders and murdered."

As the turmoil of the era surges around Henry, he continually searches for camaraderie, love, family, and identity in the midst of the chaos. He gravitates towards female warmth, from his own mother's sad affection, to the women who can't resist his handsome physique, to his affair with the love of his life, the schoolteacher-turned-rebel Miss O'Shea.

Extract from book:
"She walked into my father. Melody Nash met Henry Smart. She walked right into him, and he fell. She was half his weight, half his height, six years younger but he fell straight over like a cut tree. Love at first sight? Felled by her beauty? No. He was maggoty drunk and missing his leg. He was holding himself up with a number seven shovel he'd found inside an open door somewhere back the way he'd come when Melody Nash walked into him and dropped him onto Dorset Street. It was a Sunday. She was coming from half-eight mass, he was struggling out of Saturday. Missing a leg and his sense of direction, he hit the street with his forehead and lay still. Melody dropped the beads she'd made herself and stared down at the man. She couldn't see his face; it was kissing the street. She saw a huge back, a back as big as a bed, inside a coat as old and crusted as the cobbles around it. Shovel-sized hands at the end of his outstretched arms, and one leg. Just the one. She actually lifted the coat to check.
"-- Where's your leg gone, mister? said Melody."
From chapt. 1

About the author:
Roddy Doyle (Irish: Ruaidhrí Ó Dúill, born May 8, 1958 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. Several of his books have been made into successful films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. He won the Booker Prize in 1993.

Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, Dublin. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University College, Dublin. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming a full-time writer in 1993.

Taschenbuch: 402 Seiten
Verlag: Penguin Books; Auflage: Reissue (31. Oktober 2004)
Sprache: Englisch
ISBN: 0143034618
Preis: € 11,95

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