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Henry, Himself

Henry himself is indeed the focus of this story. In fact, the whole tale is told from Henry’s actions, thoughts and, emotions. By telling the story in this way we become intimately acquainted with Henry, so much so, that we know when he makes a statement, he may be thinking something quite different. It is an interesting way to build a picture of someone, and it becomes quite complex. As he is an older man, we can appreciate his backward thoughts and the wisdom they sometimes bring.

Emily is Henry’s much-loved wife, and the reader knows they have been together for a long time. They each anticipate many needs the other has and their conversations are to the point and not laboured. When there are moments of irritation or crankiness, Henry is careful not to let them show and only the reader is privy to his negative feelings. Frustrations are closely guarded as the retired man worries about money and about his children.

It is quite liberating for the reader to realise that while there is love, there are also a few negative emotions which need to be withheld rather than expressed. As the story proceeds, we find Henry as a young man growing up in a loving household. We follow his progress into adulthood via his memories. This reflection puts the passion and mistakes of youth into perspective. The day to day chores and life that Henry lives includes many walks with his much-loved dog Rufus and many ponderings about his own mortality.

There is a great deal of peacefulness in reflecting on Henry’s life with its ups and downs. All those dramas of youth, and worries in child rearing, seem to be ironed out, although not entirely. The perspective that in the end we all make our own way, and respect for others, kindness and hard work lead to a satisfying time in old age is very comforting.

AuthorStewart O'Nan
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAtlantic/Allen and Unwin
ReleasedJuly 2019