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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Michelle Magorian - Just Henry

review by showhost June 2012
Costa Book Award winner 2008 and author of 'Goodnight Mr Tom'. A childrens book but enjoyed by adults like me.
The second world war has ended, Henry's father died a war hero. 14year old Henry lives in a war blitzed London with his mum, his half-sister Molly, his step-father and his gran (his real dads mum). His gran is waited on hand and foot, due to her poor legs, by Henry's mum even though his gran is only 54!
Henry's gran despises little Molly and Henry's step-father and would like nothing better than for just her , Henry and Henry's mum to live together (just her and Henry would be best but then who would wait on her?). According to his gran, everything that is wrong is Henry's step-fathers fault, Henry's step-father is a sissy because he reads, because he studies for an education while he is working on the railways. She warps Henry's mind with her narrow, vindictive views - illigitimate children are a stigma, the son of a deserter should be shunned and hounded, Henry even flunked his '11 plus' exam so his gran wouldn't think he too was a sissy. He doesn't have any friends at school.
Henry's escape from the world is the cinema, he loves going to the cinema. He earns his money from a little part-time job in a shop and his pocket money from his step-father. Some films are 'A' rated which means he needs an adult to escort him in. His usual escort is the son of a neighbour but now that he has stayed in the army he doesn't see him much. He gathers the courage one day to ask a lady whom he has seen quite often on the queue, thus begins his friendship with Mrs Beaumont.
Staying on at school until the age of 15 has just been passed by the government, much to Henrys disappointment, as gran says he don't need school, he just needs a job!
Their new teacher, Mr Finch, begins to inspire Henry and his class. Henry begins to make friends with those he had previously shunned. When he is given a camera to use from Mrs Beaumont, the developed film changes Henrys life as a mystery unfolds.

It's one of those 'feel good' books where everything falls in place, the villains are caught, kindness and love overcome and everyone lives happily ever after. I did enjoy reading this book. It captures the mood of the time with its rationing, prejudices and expectations and a trip down memory lane for those cinema goers of the time.

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