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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker

Title: The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker
Author: Joanna Nell
Publisher: 24th September 2019 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

As the wife of retired ship’s doctor Dr Henry Parker, Evelyn is living out her twilight years aboard the Golden Sunset. Every night she dresses for dinner and regales her fellow passengers with stories of a glamorous life travelling the world. The crew treat her with deference. And forbearance.
But when Henry goes missing, Evelyn sets off to search every part of the ocean liner to find him; misadventures are had – all new to Evelyn. If only she could remember the events of the night before as clearly as she can recall the first time she met Henry on a passage from England to Australia in 1953 and fell in love – abandoning her dreams to become a midwife to be a wife instead – and the long-ago painful events that left Evelyn all at sea.
Why is it so hard to remember some things and so hard to forget others? And where is Henry?
My Thoughts

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell is yet another wonderful tale following up from her first book, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village. Here we have a similar heart-warming and insightful story of people in the latter stages of life as it once again opens our eyes and hearts to life for this ageing generation. 

This is the story of Evelyn, her past and present, and I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks to the beginnings of her life long journey with her beloved Henry. There are indeed many layers to this story, one of which, is the sacrifices Evelyn made in giving up her own dreams to become the wife of a ships doctor. These flashbacks also provided a window into what life might have been like living aboard a cruise ship and the many, many places they were able to visit. 

"There was something about travelling on a ship that was different to any other mode of transport. Away from civilisation, in close proximity to complete strangers who share that  peculiar sense of being in limbo for weeks at a time, a voyage is unlike a journey in a train carriage or aircraft cabin. Time stands still on a ship. Like living for a while in a dream. "

However, the main theme here is one of ageing and the issue of dementia which I thought was handled well, and with Joanna being a doctor herself, providing a real insight into what it must be like to suffer from this tormenting disease. As in her previous novel, Joanna proves that she is most adept at capturing the voice of this sometimes forgotten generation and I both love and admire that. In the character of Evelyn Parker, we have the voice of the many Seniors - both male and female - who are fighting the decline of their mental faculties. I found this interpretation to be real, honest, compassionate and at times, heartbreaking. The feelings and intelligence of people suffering from this condition is not to be underestimated, yet the frustrations and ploys to mask it truly pulled at my heartstrings. 

 “The whole thing was exhausting. Worrying about Henry. Being old. Trying to remember how a normal person behaved. With all her aches and pains and a bone-curdling weariness, every day she felt like she was coming down with the flu. Evelyn shrank into the lounger and let the reflection from the water dance on her face.”

So in this novel you will appreciate the setting and story but be swept away by the poignant plight of a generation fighting to maintain their independence. An emotional and nostalgic last voyage for not only Mrs Henry Parker but the many who face the curtains closing on their past memories and present engagements. I walked away appreciating just how precious, both good and bad, the memories are for not only ourselves but those dearest to us. 

"It is as though I skimmed through the last few chapters, eager to see what happened without paying full attention. In my memory there are pages still stuck together, things I simply can’t recall. I remember the emotions and feelings rather than the events themselves."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher Hachette Australia.

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