16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful reprint
Quite simply, Henrietta's War is wonderful, and I never wanted it to stop. It was originally a series of articles in Sketch magazine during the Second World War. In the 1980s Joyce Dennys was doing her Spring Cleaning and came across the articles - and they were published in two collections. Henrietta's War and Henrietta Sees It Through. They take the form of letters from...
Published on 4 July 2009 by Simon Thomas
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing
Short vignettes written in the form of letters to a 'dear childhood friend', with occasional shafts of original wit, but not suited for sustained reading being merely sketches meant for a newspaper.
Published on 18 Nov 2010 by D. C. Gowans
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful reprint,
This review is from: Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 (The Bloomsbury Group) (Paperback)Quite simply, Henrietta's War is wonderful, and I never wanted it to stop. It was originally a series of articles in Sketch magazine during the Second World War. In the 1980s Joyce Dennys was doing her Spring Cleaning and came across the articles - and they were published in two collections. Henrietta's War and Henrietta Sees It Through. They take the form of letters from Henrietta to Robert, a childhood friend away at war.
The humour is very similar to other books of the period, like EM Delafield's Provincial Lady books - self-deprecating, and appreciative of the ridiculous even while she is proud of England's bravery. The letters are also accompanied by Dennys' own delightful sketches.
Henrietta represents the middle-class women in England, plucky and determined to carry on as normally as possible. They garden and chat and squabble - resisting the overly-zealous scrap metal collectors, and slowing down the knitting bee so as not to finish too soon, can be slotted into their daily lives. 'There's not much glamour on the home home-front. Ours not the saucy peaked cap of our untrammelled sisters [in the ATS]. Ours rather to see that the curtains are properly drawn, and do our little bit of digging in the garden. Ours to brave the Sewing Party and painstakingly make a many-tailed bandage, and ours to fetch the groceries home in a big basket.' In the background are Henrietta's husband, Dr. Charles; friends and occasional enemies Faith, Mrs. Simpkins and Mrs. Savernack; Henrietta's children Linnet and Bill.
I think this quotation demonstrates the mixture of pluckiness and ability to laugh at oneself, which characterise both Henrietta's War and so much writing of the period:
'I was thinking to-day,' said Lady B dreamily, 'that if all we useless old women lined up on the beach, each of us with a large stone in her hand, we might do a lot of damage.'
'The only time I saw you try to throw a stone, Julia, it went over your shoulder behind you,' said Mrs. Savernack.
'Then I would have to stand with my back towards the Germans,' said Lady B comfortably.
Henrietta's War is quite simply a wonderful, witty, charming, and occasionally very moving book. It deserves to be in the company of Diary of a Provincial Lady and Mrs. Miniver as great chroniclers of the home-front - and I can only hope that Bloomsbury will reprint Henrietta Sees It Through at some point in the future.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Gem of a Novel,
This review is from: Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 (The Bloomsbury Group) (Paperback)Henrietta's War actually started out as columns in Sketch. Dennys was an artist who has many successful collections though once married and a mother in the late 1920's her life became a domestic one in the English countryside and so needed something to take her frustrations out on. Out came Henrietta's wartime letters to her `childhood friend' Robert who is `out on the front' and eventually became published as a collection and a novel in the form of this wonderful book.
Henrietta is a `doctors wife' (which all the local women think is very important in a slightly unconvinced way) to Charles and mother to Bill and Linnet living in Devon. As we meet her World War II is raging though where she lives the only real way that war is effecting them is the rations and `people are talking cockney up and down the high street'. Having home help she spends most of her time trying to join in the War Effort, joining local clubs, doing good, gossiping with her friends (wonderful characters like the bossy Lady B and Mrs Savernake and the flirty Faith who `The Conductor' is in love with) sunbathing on her roof, writing letters to Robert and getting a lot of bed rest.
For some people the war wasn't all bombs and terror, for some in the middle of nowhere it must have felt somewhat removed in many ways and Dennys addresses this. She also looks at how these people lived, admittedly in a comical tongue in cheek way, when the greatest crisis they had was not having enough sugar to make marmalade for the villages `Marmalade Week'. We see how the villagers coped and in some ways continued as normal, or as normally as they could, having jumble sales to raise money, joining drama clubs and even at one point getting arrested as Henrietta does.
Most war novels focus on the awful things that happened during that time, what Dennys does with these fictional letters is try and see the light in these dark times and to look for a way to entertain people during the difficulties with laughter. I haven't smirked, giggled and laughed out loud at a book so much in quite sometime. If you love books by Nancy Mitford, or that show WWII from a different view point, or have you laughing out loud on public transport, or like books set in villages that house wonderful quirky characters (or all of these) then this is most definitely a book for you. I am so pleased that this gem has been brought back and into the mainstream for people to enjoy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!,
This review is from: Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 (The Bloomsbury Group) (Paperback)This book is simply wonderful. I read it in one sitting and became very fond of Henrietta and her neighbours. This gives a real sense of what life was like in WWII, coping at home, even if not in immediate danger from bombs. One of the funniest parts in the book was when a bomb actually fell and everyone fought over it! And there is a sequel, excellent. Must rush and order it!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the home front,
Originally published as a magazine serial, with Joyce Dennys's own quirky illustrations, this is of the same genre as Diary of a Provincial Lady. As the PL was already well-established in another magazine, my guess is that Joyce Dennys jumped on a bandwagon, but I do think that she has a lighter touch than EM Delafield (Who can feel ever so slightly laboured if you read her at too long a sitting.) However, let's not quibble about their respective merits; if you liked the Provincial Lady, you'll love Henrietta ... and a delicious cast of characters fighting the war from a small town on the Devon coast, all wishing for their chance to give Hitler 'what for.'
Only 70 years ago ... but whatever happened to indomitable, tweedy ladies????
5.0 out of 5 stars A special treat,
5.0 out of 5 stars Henrietta's War,
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Amusing,
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing,
4.0 out of 5 stars 'On the radio there is talk of invasion but let's not think about that. I am going to tell you instead about Mrs Savernack',
Featuring such wonderful scenes as her daughter's preparations for the expected evacuee: 'Even going so far as to lay a bar of chocolate on the lonely pillow and fish her old teddy-bear out of a box in the attic. At half-past five a youth of sixteen, just under six feet tall, was deposited on our doorstep.'
And 'a most enjoyable rehearsal of an air-raid warning...You would have thought that siren was a herald of good tidings instead of possible death and destruction...People in the streets were wreathed in smiles and some were doubled up with laughter...I haven't seen this place so gay since the Coronation'.
Rationing, the black-out, the struggle to procure meat for the pet dog - I thoroughly enjoyed it.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delightfully Easy Read,
The whole book was in epistolary form, and through Henrietta's affectionate letters to her childhood friend Charles at the front in France during the second world war, the reader learns not just about the global effects of the war, but the impact in the small places, and on the small people. This is about the war for the ordinary individual.
A doctor's wife, Henrietta worries that her role in the war effort doesn't measure up to that of many of her neighbours, and tries at every turn to do her bit for the boys. However it seems her pains are almost always doomed to fail, and the light humour resulting from this made the novel a delightfully easy read.
The characters of Henrietta's hometown became as well known to me as my own friends and family and although sometimes a bit twee and cringe-makingly middle class, it did have me laughing out loud.
Aside from the deliciously light humour - perfect for a Sunday afternoon - it did subtly and cleverly tackle the greater issue of war, most strikingly through Henrietta's omitted mentions and passing comments. She is frightened to broach the subject with her correspondent, not wanting to give him the news of something he is already irrevocably embroiled in, and tries to send him news to cheer him up instead, but as she describes day to day life in the village, the war is always there, a character itself, shaping the course of the plot and the lives of the town's inhabitants. The shadow of the Great War still hangs over many in the novel, and their iron resolve to beat Germany in the Second World War by playing their part, however small, is apparent.
It was a warm and funny read, but also truthful and telling too, and evocative of life at the time for the middle classes. Although it won't be the best thing I've ever read, I've a feeling that it's going to be one of those books I go back to, to cheer me up.
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Henrietta's War (The Bloomsbury Group) by Joyce Dennys