76. Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys
Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys (Canada) - (USA)
Illustrated by the author
Pages: 158 pages
Finished: May 3, 2010
First Published: 1939-1942 as newspaper articles (1985, collected in book form) ( Apr. 2010 Bloomsbury Group Edition (US/Can))
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: epistolary, Historical fiction, Humour
October 18, 1939
My Dear Robert
It was good to get your letter and hear that you are in a 'perfectly safe place', though I wonder how much of that is true and how much intended to allay the alarms of you Childhood's Friend.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group (Canada).
Reason for Reading: I am reading all The Bloomsbury Group books.
Joyce Dennys who at the time was more known for her illustrations and aid work during WWI found her time more limited during WWII, being now taken up almost full-time as a mother and doctor's wife so she turned to writing, publishing a fictional letter from "Henrietta" to a dear "Childhood's Friend" on the war front about daily life back on the home front. The article proved so popular that Henrietta's letters became a regular feature in Sketch. The letters were first collected into book form in 1985.
Each letter is accompanied by one humorous illustration. The letters mostly deal with the local shenanigans going on around the village. The gossip, whose mad at who and why, the embarrassing things that happen to the writer plus the author also shows her concern for her reader "Robert", talks of the war occasionally, then gets back on track remembering her letters are supposed to make Robert forget the war and think of home.
Of course, the town is filled with eccentric characters such as the dominating Lady B. with a dog the size of a rat and the will of Hitler, the bossy though very efficient Mrs. Saversnack, the dreamy-headed flirtatious Faith and the shy absolutely smitten Composer who is madly in love with her. Then there is Henrietta herself who is a bit of a klutz and will get into the strangest situations or find herself watching one delightedly and her doctor husband who being the strong, silent type stays mainly in the background.
The book is whimsical and quaint. While concentrating on everyday life, enough information about daily living circumstances during the war such as rationing, air raid drills, committees, wardens, collecting tin and other such material for the army show just how much affect the war had on a tiny village in England even to this point where it has not been bombed. Especially when one considers that even while these letters are fictional, this is source material written at the very time the real events of those days were happening. Enjoyable, with some actual laugh out loud moments.