Final volume of Doyle’s Irish rebel trilogy

2010-07-14 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

The Dead Republic

Roddy Doyle

Jonathan Cape

THE Dead Republic is the final instalment of Roddy Doyle’s trilogy ­featuring Henry Smart. Rather like Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man ­Doyle serves up a character whose longevity means his lifetime conveniently includes a century and more of history, in this case Irish history, including the struggle for independence from Britain and the ensuing “troubles” of Northern Ireland.

The opening of part three finds Smart rescued from death in the desert by the real-life film-maker John Ford during the filming of his classic Western My Darling Clementine in Monument Valley. Ford (whose real name was Sean O’Feeney) takes Smart under his wing with the intention of telling his tale of Irish Republican Army (IRA) derring-do in a film ­titled The Quiet Man. The Quiet Man was indeed made, but as an Oscar-winning piece of Irish blarney starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. In part, The Dead Republic shows how and why this total shift in emphasis came about.

The later sections of Doyle’s novel are set in ­Ireland during the final decades of the 20th century as factions within the IRA (pro- or anti-nego­tia­tion with the British) vie for supremacy and Smart, now an historic icon, finds himself a pawn in their deadly game.

Doyle’s over-breezy writing style sees The Dead Republic read more like a sketchy first draft, something further reinforced by the novel’s structural problems. Considering the weighty subject matter there’s little meat on these bones. For Doyle fans only.

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