Books: The Best of the Boyos

Roddy Doyle vividly portrays the wild passions of an Irish Everyman in A Star Called Henry

The luck of the Irish has always been their misery, at least where Ireland's writers have been concerned. Suffering makes for better stories than comfort does. Pain turns pages. And the best happy endings follow unhappy beginnings. (Although not always; see following review.)

A Star Called Henry (Viking; 343 pages; $24.95), Roddy Doyle's new novel about the birth of the modern Irish nation, begins with the vivid miseries of its hero, young Henry Smart, who is named for a dead brother whom his grieving mother can't forget. The time is the turn of the century, a dreary hiatus between a past...

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