The Dead Republic Hardcover – 25 Mar 2010
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'This is Ireland's most famous living writer tackling one of the most crucial periods in history... A Star Called Henry has all the hallmarks of the start of a major literary portrayal of a national experience.'
A major literary event - a magnificent, epic novel that explores the history of modern Ireland - the sequel to the bestselling A Star Called Henry and Oh, Play That Thing.See all Product description
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The first section of the book deals with his experience working with John Ford on the development of The Quiet Man, whilst you have to admire the detail of Doyle's historial research, I did feel that this element of Henry's life lacked the energy and pace of the previous novels. The writer seemed to be more interesting in the process of moviemaking and the Hollywood treatment given to Henry's story and it took a while for his character to take hold of the narrative and to give it momentum.
As the novel develop, Henry finds work as a school caretaker and a gardener, is somewhat implausibly reunited with the love of his life and becomes a figurehead for the republican movement as a result of mistaken idenitiy. The novel contains pace and tempo in its latter stages but never really reaches the brilliance of the first two books in the trilogy.
At the outset of this third novel, Henry comes into contact with director John Ford, who begins talks with Henry about a film he plans to make about Henry's life--"The Quiet Man." Ford wants to celebrate Ireland's beauty (and sell more tickets) by removing all references to the War for Independence and the IRA. "No one gets shot in the back. No one gets shot at all," Ford declares, though this is not the Ireland that Henry has seen up close and personal as an IRA assassin. When Henry abandons the project, Ford goes on to make "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara--a sentimental romance celebrating the Ireland that Ford and many other Irish-Americans want to remember. In Part II, Henry, now fifty, has returned to Ireland, where he works as a caretaker at a school for underprivileged boys and lives a quiet life, until he is eventually "called" again by the IRA. For Henry, "[Ireland] was [now] worse than it had been when [he] was young...The country was already dead."
Though the dialogue is, as always, bright and lively, the novel and the trilogy itself are structurally confused, the emotional triumph of the Easter Rising from the first novel lost in a Hollywoodized version of reality in the second novel and in much of the third. Doyle does attempt to bring the novel back to its revolutionary roots by reconnecting Henry Smart with the Provos and the disastrous bombings of Dublin by the Ulster Defense Force in 1974, then bringing it further up to date with the elections held in 1980, as imprisoned republicans, like Bobby Sands, imprisoned in Long Kesh, go on a hunger strike. This concluding section is the most vibrant part of the novel.
Those who are unfamiliar with the preceding two novels will have a difficult time understanding who the characters are, and as the action cuts back and forth in time without warning, even someone familiar with the trilogy will sometimes be hard pressed to figure out what is happening. Henry's return to Ireland does not result in much greater enlightenment regarding the purpose of the trilogy and the reasons for its many changes of direction. The lives of the Irish revolutionaries become lost in the scenery, as Henry Smart and his legacy go out, not with a bang but a whimper. Mary Whipple
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Henry epitomises the romantic notion of a rebel with a cause, a core of steel, the love of a feisty woman and the world's biggest don't-give-a-damn attitude. One gets the distinct impression that his frustration with the ever-complex political landscape would be most easily resolved if Henry could simply shoot anyone with whom he had a slight disagreement.
Back in Ireland, Doyle once more displays a skill with native dialogue that few can match, one can hear it, rich and ringing, it, more than anything else, speaks of place and time and history and the hope that never goes away.
Henry has always been the character who would always silently enthral any dinner party and be the person you would least like to be on the wrong side of, lethal with weapon and word he could cut you dead with either, probably both.
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