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5.0 out of 5 stars Henrietta Sees It Through, 19 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Henrietta Sees it Through: More News from the Home Front 1942-45 (The Bloomsbury Group) (Paperback)
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.
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S Riaz "S Riaz"
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