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Concluding the Story of Henry Smart
The Dead Republic - Roddy Doyle
Member Name: plnodwyer
The Dead Republic - Roddy Doyle
Advantages: Brilliant story by a brilliant author
Disadvantages: Last in a series
In the third and final book in Roddy Doyle's 'The Last Roundup' Trilogy we see an aging Henry Smart return from the United States after years spent searching for his wife and two children. Found almost dead in the desert by Henry Fonda, Henry is taken back to Ireland to be John Ford's 'IRA consultant' (Irish Republican Army) in the making of his new film, The Quiet Man. We are also introduced to more notable figures, as in the previous two books 'A Star Called Henry' and 'Oh, Play That Thing', these including the film's stars Maureen O' Hara and John Wayne as well as Henry Fonda and other notable Irish figures and characters from the previous books.
As Ford's IRA consultant, Henry has the opportunity to visit his wife's family home and other such places but quickly discovers that the place he fled in 1922 is very different to the place he returns to twenty nine years later in 1951. As filming of The Quiet Man continues Henry becomes more and more annoyed with Ford, as he feels the story being told is not his, and soon he parts ways with his film star acquaintances.
After years of hardship Henry is old beyond his years and trying to settle into a 'normal' life he becomes a caretaker at a Dublin school and a gardener. However, having read the first two books in this trilogy it should be obvious that Henry Smart cannot have a normal, run of the mill life. He soon reminds the staff of the school of his soldier past and is then enlisted into the Provisional IRA as a spokesman, one of the boys from the GPO in 1916. Given the arrangement between Henry and the Army council, he is very unlikely to tell them his very minor role during the famous Easter Rising. From this we are introduced to more famous figures as well as the return of the infamous Ivan Reynolds, by now a notable and respected politician.
Henry's place in the history of Ireland would surely have been cemented, that is if this was not a fictional novel. But Roddy Doyle has not disappointed in this great fictional narrative, and ends the trilogy (easily my favourite series of novels), and it is easy to believe while reading this, that is a memoir of a forgotten hero, or more likely someone who has just been written out of the history books. The narrative deals with the identity that Henry chooses for himself and the identities which have been forced on him his entire life. It is also concerned with how Ireland has been portrayed by everyone from Ford to the modern day politicians. Much like Henry's place in Irish history, this too is a work of fiction.
I would seriously recommend this book to anyone, but unlike many other series, you really should read the first and second book before diving into the third. That's not to say that this book does not stand alone, as it does, but by reading all three we follow Henry from even before his birth to his late (very late) years, and really develop an understanding of him. I just feel that it's a much better read if read with 'A Star Called Henry' and 'Oh, Play That Thing'. It is a great novel as well as great look at Ireland's twentieth century history.
Summary: The last part in an incredible story of a fictional Irish hero