This book is a breathtaking and ambitious departure for Roddy Doyle - it is an account of Ireland at the time of republican revolution, told through the eyes of one of Dublin's teeming citizens, who rises - literally - from the gutter, to become one of Michael Collins boys - a cop-killer for the IRA.
Not only an account of the birth of the Irish Republic, it is the tale of a one legged whorehouse doorkeeper, and childhood and life of his son, Henry Smart, who finds employment with the IRA not because of burning political ideals but as a means of survival and possible fame.
The sheer depth of the descriptive narrative is impressive. Like Graham Swift's Waterland, it serves as a historical document as well as a work of fiction - this reader came away from the novel entertained and educated, and from a British point of view, shocked at the subjugation of Empire.
Tragically comic, Doyle exhibits much of the pithy, down to earth, humour of human tragedy that served him so well in his earlier work. It would have been easy to write a biased account of the embattled Irish fighting a united war against the evil English - but Doyle concentrates on the experiences of Henry, who finds that all sides have the capacity for double-crossing and murder.
A Star Called Henry marks the maturity of Roddy Doyles' writing, and will doubtless be classed as one of the great works of Irish literature.