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3.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida (1991)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006DMUJ0
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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By A Customer on 3 Oct. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having read 'A Star Called Henry' and absolutely loved it, I couldn't wait to read the sequel and bought it as soon as it was published.
However I was bitterly disappointed with Doyle's follow up to what I think is by far his best novel. Henry Smart is no longer the charming, cocky, wonderfully loveable character we follow in 'A Star Called Henry'. At times this side of his character shines through, however these moments are, sadly, few and far between. Henry has almost become a parody of his previously charismatic, ambitious self. He is directionless. A character like this needs a purpose if he is to retain his lovable qualities. Instead we are presented with a Henry who is led by his trousers and not much else. He claims to miss his wife but makes no attempt to look for her, leading us to doubt his sincerity - something which was previously one of the qualities which made him so attractive.
The plot concerning Louis Armstrong is distracting and dare I say, boring. Doyle obviously has a strong interest in music, as seen in previous novels, such as 'The Commitments' but it just doesn't fit in with Henry's story. The music is Armstrong's purpose, not Henry's, and it leaves Henry with little room for movement or development - he faffs around the outside of the cause but it is never believable that he really cares about it - as seen in his political involvements in 'A Star Called Henry' he is in it solely for companionship and a sense of belonging. Henry is still looking for a sense of identity, but the idea that he thinks he will find it in the black American music scene verges on the ridiculous. WHat was touching and understandable in the first novel has become, as I have mentioned before, a parody.
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Format: Hardcover
The problem with 'Oh, Play That Thing' isn't that it is a bad book. In many ways it's a good book. The problem is that this is the sequel to an absolutely superb and unforgettable book, so when this one falls so far short of its predecessor's brilliance, the reader's disappointment is huge.
The setting is America in the 1920s and Henry Smart, under a wonderful variety of aliases, has fled there from his native Ireland to rub along as best he can with no assets beyond his prodigious though sometimes misguided wits. There's a wealth of interesting stuff about Prohibition and the seemy side of gangland New York and jazz-land Chicago. The imagery is often startling. The book has one of the most hauntingly brilliant openings I have read for years, describing the tired & frightened immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. The language often corruscates with dark humour. So...?
So the problem is with Henry himself. His path through life was always eccentric but in 'A Star Called Henry' there was a momentum driving him forwards, and in the sequel it isn't there. This older Henry spends too much time wandering directionless. The va-va-voom has gone out of him.
Of course, sequels are always a bain. Writing a novel isn't a linear process, you jump back and forth developing and tweaking your character to fit the twists & turns of your storyline. A sequel allows none of that, he's ready-made, pre-packed. Unfortunately, Roddy Doyle has compounded his difficulties by including another ready-made character because a real one, Louis Armstrong. And worse, the author clearly hero-worships him. Hero worship does not come well off the page. He has done a great disservice to Armstrong, who comes across as a caricature, and that's something we never thought we'd say about a book by Roddy Doyle.
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Format: Paperback
Doyle's previous novel "A star Called Henry" was a superb book - probably the first to look at what has now become a very romantacised period in Irish history from a realistic and authentic point of view. The formula of combining actual historical figures with the swaggering innonence and bravado of Henry Smart - patriot, hitman,lover and romantic - made for a highly entertaining sweep through the story of the emerging Irish state in the early part of the last century. It exposed much of the revisionism which has since taken place about that period in Irish history, which up to now has been taught in Irish schools as a glorious period.
Unfortunately, the same formula applied to Henry Smart's continuing adventures in the america of the 1920s and 1930s does not work as well. Apart from the fact that this approach has been overdone from Ragtime onwards, large tracts of the story are incredulous - bordering on the bizarre, if not the ridiculous (sudden escapes from the jaws of death etc). Having moved on from courting Louis Armstrong to Dutch Schulz and a host of further legendary figures of the period, there are further plot twists (e.g the Bonnie and Clyde and Holywood movies episodes) which seem to drawn their inspiration from Woody Allen's Zelig (and that was a comedy movie). On top of this, the dialogue is stilted and is difficult to read.
Roddy, on this occasion, has bitten off too much to make for a decent book. Hopefully, there is not another sequel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Couldn't wait to read this as A Star Called Henry was soooooooooo brilliant and, indeed it starts well. Henry is escaping from Ireland and eventually arrives in NY and history comes alive...this is NY as it must have been. However, from that point on the story gets lost. The plot becomes unbelievable. I suppose, in the end, if you enjoyed the first book it's worth reading just for the first few chapters....disappointing
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