Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Audiobook Review: Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys

Henrietta's War: News from the Homefront 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys

Completed: January 11, 2014
Length: 3 Hours, 47 Minutes (158 Pages)
Narrated by: Mandy Gasson

Synopsis from Audible:
Spirited Henrietta wishes she was the kind of doctor's wife who knew exactly how to deal with the daily upheavals of war. But then, everyone in her close-knit Devonshire village seems to find different ways to cope: There's the indomitable Lady B, who writes to Hitler every night to tell him precisely what she thinks of him; the terrifyingly efficient Mrs. Savernack, who relishes the opportunity to sit on umpteen committees and boss everyone around; flighty, flirtatious Faith who is utterly preoccupied with the latest hats and flashing her shapely legs; and then there's Charles, Henrietta's hard-working husband who manages to sleep through a bomb landing in their neighbour's garden.
With life turned upside down under the shadow of war, Henrietta chronicles the dramas, squabbles, and loyal friendships that unfold in her affectionate letters to her "dear childhood friend" Robert. Warm, witty, and perfectly observed, Henrietta's War brings to life a sparkling community of determined troopers who pull together to fight the good fight with patriotic fervour and good humour.
Henrietta's War is part of The Bloomsbury Group, a new library of books from the early 20th-century chosen by readers for readers.
What Lead You to Pick Up the Book?: I was curious. I have heard good things about this book for ages and planned to buy it at Christmastime, but there was a reason that I couldn't. So, I went the audiobook route instead. I still would like to own the paperbacks at some point.

Summarize the Plot: The novel is entirely told from Henrietta's point of view through letters that she writes to her friend Robert. Robert is serving in the war, and Henrietta is keeping up to date on life on the home front. Through her letters, we learn about her husband and the cast of colourful characters that make up her community. By the end of the book, you feel as if you have been visiting with old friends.

What Did you Like Most About the Book?: I think my favourite part of the book is how everything comes to life during Henrietta's letters. Henrietta herself is the focal point, but she describes others so well that you feel as if you know them. There is Lady B, for example, who writes a letter to Hitler every evening telling him what she thinks of him. Then there is Faith, who has the choir master wrapped around her little finger. The choir master himself comes to life by visiting Henrietta in her bedroom to lament about his fate in the world. 

What Did you Like Least?: I wanted more. The book is very short, and I wish it wasn't. There is a sequel, though, and I may feel better once I have read that. (I am just disappointed that it is a different narrator for the audio because now Henrietta won't sound right.)

What Did you Think of the Writing Style: Well, I love books told through letters. I know there are many people that don't feel it gives enough to have a book written that way, but I am a huge fan and some of my favourite books are written through letters, diaries, etc. (This is why I joined the Postal Reading Challenge this year). I think that Dennys does a very successful job of telling what life was like on the Home Front during World War II.

What Did you Think of the Main Character?: Henrietta was very human. When there was something to be scared of, she was scared. When there was action going on, she got in the midst of it when it was necessary and ran away when it wasn't. Dennys made her seem like a real person instead of attempting to create a larger than life or impractical British woman. There was one scene where she gives blood that was particularly well-done and believable.

What did you think of the ending?: The book only covers the first part of the war, so I tend to think of the sequel as the real ending. That being said it ended fine and with no compulsion to have to read the sequel, but I want to see how things play out for Henrietta, her family, Robert, and the members of her community during the rest of the war.

Strongly recommended!

Thoughts on the Audio: I liked Mandy Gasson. She did a very good job talking in the conversational tones of the letters that Henrietta was writing to Robert. I went to see what else she has narrated, but this is her only book. As I mentioned above, I am disappointed she doesn't narrate the sequel.

This post originally ran at The Written World.

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