Wonderful book. Read this for book group - divided opinion which always makes it more interesting. I thought it was a fantastic book, very funny, excellent subtle work on religion, bigotry, our assumed prejudices about 'savages in Africa'. The ridiculousness of the situations the main character gets himself into counter balance with the subtle layer about politics, power, influence and religion. I like Confederacy of Dunces and Flowers for Algernon if that helps you see my sense of humour.
One of my personal favorites. An inspiring novel that will strike a chord in the heart of anyone who has felt in need of something greater in their lives than themselves, Henderson the Rain King is a hectic journey of one man through not only the world, but life and, perhaps most importantly, his own soul. Henderson is constantly in a process of becoming in his own mind, and in his fervor to try and metamorphasize into a type of finished being, he fails to notice that through his evolution he is achieving his goal of simply existing. He is lovably egocentric; existing as the sun of his own universe while striving to gain an orbit of his own. He uses his wives to try to fill some empty spot in his existance, professing over and over again his love for his current wife, with little notice or mention of any real depth or desire that she may possess, speaking only of her beauty and creating a view of the female gender that smacks of Hemingway. Henderson's deficiency is one of the soul, and enlightenment is the only path which will bring him peace. He possesses a jaded love of life, in so much as he has experienced enough horror in the world that he cannot look upon it in wide-eyed wonder, but is struck profoundly by the sights and moments in life which are filled with rough hewn and genuine beauty which do inspire in him a sense of awe. It is these moments and spaces of depth within his soul which make his dark optimism for life so endearing. He is, as he himself says, a creature constantly becoming, yet it is through this constant evolution that he reaches his goal, finds peace, and fulfills the "I want"s. He is a man not of thought but of action, and it is only from within himself that he may realize that it is only through perpetual becoming that Henderson the Rain King may exist.
This book proves that great writing can be readable. I read this novel for the first time over twenty years ago, several times in between, and it was just as wonderful last week. You laugh, you cry, you empathize. If you're tired of beach books, but also weary of pseudointellectual book snobs who tell you that prose must be labyrinthine to be literature, and that laughable isn't laudable, take this book on vacation and share it with a friend.
This book starts off really well with some great phrases and a bellicose main character whose opinions are on life are brashly entertaining. He is a man of great energy and likes to barge his way into every situation and take control. This gets him into a couple of spots of bother on a trip to Africa. The first of these is tinged with black humour as his unbridled enthusiasm in himself leads to an inevitable disaster.
Sadly it goes horribly wrong after that with vast rambling philosophical passages that I found difficult to penetrate let alone understand. I probably just didn't get it and I didn't actually dislike the book as a whole. I just found it a bit frustrating. Like Henderson himself, for all it's opening bluster it offered nothing. Maybe that was the point though.
Saul Bellow has created a wonderful off the wall at times, complex easy reading novel - its about a man's yearning and searching with the words "I want" going around in his head leading him on to find himself. This book had me laughing out loud and wondering about the many insightful happenings and wisdom from the characters that have profound teachings. This is a real mix and different, I also loved the backdrop of Africa that the story weaves around - this book will be well remembered after, and for me it will always leave a smile on my face when I remember it.
The words 'I am the rain king' were the reason that I picked up this book. The lead singer of Counting Crows, Adam Duritz, made me read this book. He did this by simply comparing Henderson to himself in the song 'Rain King'. This made me realise what a wonderful book it must be. When I read it I was not disapointed. It holds a world of thoughts and feelings that can be taken from the words and felt by the reader. "He's a figure of excess. He wants more than he has; he thinks he deserves more than he's got. Joyously and pathetically, he pours all over everyone like a big open wound. In one sense, he's great because he's actually living -- but in another, he's a mess, and he's heading for a very dark place" - Adam Duritz, on Henderson the Rain King.