Oh, Play That Thing Hardcover – Sep 14 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Doyle stumbles somewhat in this sequel to his excellent 1999 bestseller, A Star Called Henry. Beginning with Irish revolutionary Henry Smart's arrival in New York City in 1924, the story follows Henry's subsequent adventures in advertising, bootlegging, pornography, unlicensed dentistry and keeping ahead of the former associates who'd like to see him eat a lead sandwich. After encroaching too much on a mobster's turf—and getting lucky with another powerful fellow's kept lady—Henry hightails it to Chicago, where he becomes the unofficial manager of a young Louis Armstrong. Though serendipitously reunited with his beloved wife and the daughter he's never met while trying to rob her employer's house, Henry soon heads back to New York to help Louis make it big. While just as brash and lively as Doyle's earlier novels, this one isn't nearly as focused; the dialogue-heavy narrative is interspersed with shifts in setting, time and plot, and characters appear and disappear with little consequence, their spoken parts hasty, repetitive and often perplexing. Worse, Doyle takes Henry Smart's charm for granted; readers unfamiliar with his previous adventures may roll their eyes at his arrogance and incessant sexual encounters. There's just too much material; any of the novel's numerous strands could have been fleshed out into its own book. That said, the novel is still a lot of improbable fun.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Times may be tough in 1920s New York, but for ex-IRA assassin Henry Smart, Ellis Island seems like heaven on earth. In this ebullient continuation of the epic that began with the 2000 best-seller A Star Called Henry, Dublin-born Smart leaves behind his loving wife (whom he still calls Miss O'Shea) and infant daughter to start life anew. Donning a pearl gray fedora and a snappy suit, Henry finds a job as a sandwich-board ad man and complements his earnings by selling the bootleg liquor tucked inside the placards. As he mingles with gangsters and dolls, Henry keeps a watchful eye out for the "hard men" who know about the death warrant issued for him on the other side of the Atlantic. When his overly enterprising ways enrage his superiors, Henry flees to Chicago, where he embraces the emerging jazz scene and becomes trumpeter Louis Armstrong's right-hand man. In an era when skin color dictates status, Smart's responsibilities are clear: "My purpose was my whiteness, and my willingness to walk it beside Louis." The two return to Harlem, where the soaring music scene makes Smart's heart sing. But the past forever haunts Henry, who holds out hope for a reunion with true love O'Shea. Booker Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter Doyle displays his trademark sensitivity and wit in a tale full of adventure, passion, and prose as punchy as a Satchmo riff. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The writing itself is incredible, and Henry is still the hero who alternately flutters and tears apart your heart, but the plot is just about impossible to follow - or believe. Henry goes from one over-the-top situation to the next, and the coincidences leave you scratching your head. And his incredible, complicated, timeless love for his wife - which drove the plot and the pace of the first novel - takes the backseat much of the time. Yes, Henry is far away and yes, he is a Casanova with an unquenchable thirst, but he conveniently leaves all that passion and pain behind, save for the occasional line or two that Roddy Doyle seems to offer up to forgive Henry's forgetting.
In the end, I felt like I'd missed half the points the novel was trying to make, and Henry Smart became more of a cheap pawn than a complex character. He became a whole new, impossible-to-believe character, with barely a link to the boy we first met. I can't imagine where the next novel will take us, although it looks like Henry will see his name in lights after all. I'd trade in all that flash for one more dirty, gritty story of the real MacCoy.
I loved it and can't wait for the third one!