This book is subtitled: More News from the Home Front 1942-45.
Obviously it’s a continuation of Henrietta’s War, and is every bit as good as that book. Joyce Dennys said that she didn’t know where Henrietta ended and she began. As Joyce was a doctor’s wife herself and living in the West Country she was really just embroidering her experiences, and as they were all so unusual in wartime she probably didn’t have to do too much embroidering.
In amongst the humour there is the odd bit of serious observation, sometimes explained by footnotes. One is about the up and coming White Paper which the government was preparing on the proposed formation of the NHS. In Henrietta’s April 19, 1944 letter to her friend Robert she tells him of a conversation about it which her husband has with his friend, Doctor Rival.
It makes you think, and I must admit that it makes me feel proud that whilst they were still busy fighting World War II they also had time and the inclination to set up the National Health Service. We were up to our eyeballs in debt, the financial debt to the Americans was only just payed off a few years ago, it took us about 60 years to do that. But they still managed to do it, and this crowd of politicians that we have in at the moment are doing their best to get rid of the NHS. Shame on them!
Anyway, back to the book. Spookily, the May 16th, 1945 letter to Robert reports that it is snowing, just as it was today in the west of England, so the weather wasn’t any better then. In this book Henrietta reveals herself to be a booklover and when there is a Red Cross campaign for book donations she has a difficult time of it, which books can she part with? She gets out her copy of The Princess and Curdie, but then thinks again as she might need it for future grandchildren. She sometimes wakes in the night, in anguish over the books which she has lent to people over the years – never to see the people or books again! We probably all know how that feels!
I was really sorry when the book came to an end, especially as she doesn’t seem to have written anything else in a similar vein. I enjoyed being part of Henrietta’s world, but it struck me that in reality the end of the war was a brief joy for a lot of people, then after the celebrations they were bereft because they knew that everything was going to be changing and terrible as it may seem, the war was the best time of many peoples’ lives. They felt useful, they all had a common enemy and there was always so much going on, organising to be done and fund raising for Spitfires and such. Joyce Dennys seems to have captured the atmosphere of her times in an amusing way, which obviously went down well with Sketch readers during the long hostilities. Another hoot and a comfort read, perfect for when your brain feels more akin to spaghetti than grey matter!