Henrietta Sees it Through: More News from the Home Front 1942-45 (The Bloomsbury Group) Paperback – 5 Jul 2010
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'I haven't smirked, giggled and laughed out loud at a book so much in quite sometime. A perfect and delightful book' Savidge Reads 'I haven't read anything so funny for many years. They rank alongside E M Delafield's The Diary Of A Provincial Lady, and George and Weedon Grossmiths' The Diary of A Nobody' Susan Hill, Good Housekeeping 'Anyone who wants to get the feel of the period must read these short letters' Daily Telegraph 'Dennys writes in simple, elegant prose about garden parties and elderly colonels, about flighty young women and daunting, tweedy ladies avid to repel the invader with their own hands; and the comedy she describes is embellished by little drawings as accomplished as her prose' Irish Times
About the Author
JOYCE DENNYS was born 14th August 1893 in India. The Dennys family relocated to England in 1896. Dennys enjoyed drawing lessons throughout her schooling and later enrolled at Exeter Art School. In 1919 Dennys married Tom Evans, a young doctor, and they moved to Australia. While living in New South Wales, Dennys's work was constantly in print and exhibited in many galleries. In 1922 Joyce became a mother and moved back to England. Her drawing took second place to the domestic and social duties of a doctor's wife and mother and she became increasingly frustrated. She voiced her frustrations through the character of Henrietta, a heroine she created for an article for Sketch. Henrietta was to become so important to Dennys that she once remarked, 'When I stopped doing the piece after the war, I felt quite lost. Henrietta was part of me. I never quite knew where I ended and she began.' These letters were later compiled to form Henrietta's War, first published by Andre Deutsch in 1985.
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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.
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.
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.