4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is the sequel to "Henrietta's War," and again it takes the form of fictional letters, written by Henrietta Brown - wife to the local doctor and mother to grown up children Bill and the Linnet - who spent the war in a `safe area' of Devon, in the small rural community where she lived. Published in Sketch magazine, these letters gave the housewife a voice in the war; showing the daily struggles made by the countless women around the country who coped with rationing, evacuees - or being one - fuel targets, digging for victory, cuts and the general weariness caused by a war which had gone on for several years. Henrietta suffers when a `Good Book Drive' means she must give up some of her precious and beloved volumes, feeling "like a mother delivering her children to an orphanage." Everyone is a little tired now and have to keep giving each other support. Also, tempers are a little frayed, but all in all everyone is muddling through and managing very well.
Of course, Henrietta and her friends are aware that they are not in the front line and they suffer many pointed comments from those who have been bombed out. As Lady B, Henrietta's closest friend and ally states though, living in London is very much like being an "only child." Residing in the close knit community where they live is difficult, but is ultimately like being in a family - often leading to squabbles, but ultimately good for you. However, the jibes obviously hurt, especially when the war intrudes in personal ways. There is one really tragic moment when somebody's son is killed, yet the mother still takes part in a croquet tournament, and does not even tell anyone there that it happened. I found a real lump in my throat, I have to say, and was surprised in such a generally light-hearted book. Indeed, the general feel of this, second, book, is much wearier and people tend to suffer more `night terrors' and stress. However, there is also much humour and warmth too. Faith finally ties the knot with the Conductor, The Linnet gets engaged and life, of course, goes on.
Together, these books paint an interesting picture of the Home Front in a small seaside town. Obviously they are meant as propaganda and Henrietta is ultimately cheerful and sensible; her voice persuading women they are doing their best and exhorting them to try harder. Her longing for an evacuee is one which was certainly not welcomed with joy by many housewives, I am sure. However, they are an enjoyable read and I love the characters we meet throughout the two books. Joyce Dennys was an absolute comic genius and her work still has the power to move you, make you think and make you laugh.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2010
`Henrietta Sees It Through' is the war years from 1942 - 1945 as written by our narrator Henrietta the doctors wife in the Devonshire countryside in the form of letters to her childhood friend Robert. It's a side to war you don't often see as really bar the rationing people aren't that aware there is a war on (and this is written to much comical effect in the previous book Henrietta's War too) to begin with. In fact most of them are in competition with just what they can do in order to be a part of the `War Effort'. Be it from the amount of heating materials they use, the way they can create clothes out of curtains and pyjama's, who can knit the most and who can house the most evacuee's.
There is a much darker twist though as the book goes on and suddenly Devonshire isn't quite as safe as it once was -the siren is even rung on several occasions which has been unheard of until now. Though still incredibly funny in parts I can imagine Joyce Dennys couldn't just make a set of columns for Sketch magazine (which is where Henrietta was created) constantly funny despite the fact the idea behind it was in some way to make people laugh during these trying times, Dennys own war effort if you will. So people in the village that Henrietta knows do loose loved ones as many people did and though there is sadness Dennys mixes in the hope of the Blitz Spirit which wasn't just alive and well in London but around the whole country.
I again thoroughly enjoyed the second, and sadly I think final, instalment of Henrietta and the goings on of her and her friends such as the wonderful Lady B, the ditzy flirtatious Faith (a lovely happy story line there) and a few new characters too not just of the human variety either. I said last year that `I haven't smirked, giggled and laughed out loud at a book so much in quite some time. A perfect and delightful book' after reading `Henrietta's War' and was worried this one might not be able to live up to the last one. However with Dennys adding a few darker shades of the war in I found the contrast added something extra that made this a wonderful follow up and whilst I carried on laughing, I was made to think much more about war and its effects.
on 12 July 2011
I am so glad I discovered that there was a continuation of Joyce Dennys' war observations. Because I like many other readers, no doubt, wondered what happened to everybody in the little village she described, on the south-west coast of England. Far away from the Blitz and later on, doodlebugs, Henrietta and her friends are spared a lot of the war monstrosities. But it does not make life a breeze. With war ministries constantly coming out with new orders for the house wives to implicate in daily life, it has both Henrietta and others in tears. Lady B. doesn't want to live without elastic and corsets. Henrietta doesn't want to donate her beloved books to become pulp. They all find it difficult to look dignified at weddings and parties and other social gatherings with ladders on their stockings and holes in their clothes in embarrassing places. They're hungry, loosing weight, being tired of war and to always live with the guilt that they have not been bombed and are not doing enough for the war effort. Some days they all hate each other. Some days they manage to have fun on very little.
It's a wonderful book, just like the first one was. The fact that it was once monthly installments in a newspaper that war torn England was looking forward to, makes it so much more fun to read. That in the middle of the war, Joyce Dennys, was able to see humour in the smallest things and to let her audience join in her, her husband's and her daughter's lives, makes it a treat. It doesn't matter that Lady B, Faith & the Conductor, Mrs. Savernack, Mrs. Whinebite, Mrs. & Colonel Simpkins and the Admiral are all fictional. No doubt she saw their personalities around her.
on 2 September 2011
Everybody who is remotely interest in life in World War II should read these two books about the Country Doctor's wife by Joyce Dennys. I didn't experience wartime life, I missed it by a couple of years, but my passionate interest in the war was developed by my mother, who saw the funny side of everything and could tell wartime stories that made you roar with laughter. Joyce Dennys does exactly this. Her characters are delicious and so realistic; the petty squabbles amongst the villagers are a hoot and the letters of the long-suffering Henrietta to her friend in the services have got to have been the basis of 99% of wartime letters, mundane, everyday stuff but the stuff of life itself!
I felt cosy and warm reading these books, I had a vivid picture in my mind of all the characters, the sweet, the self-important and particularly the eccentrics and I recommend them to anyone who wants just a nice, light read.