Mrs Henry Parker is the wife of a retired ship’s doctor she has spent most of her life at sea. She spends her days wandering the ship as if it is her home and her nights dressed up to the nines and entertaining the very revolving round of fellow passengers of tales of her past adventures.
But Henry seems to have gone missing and Mrs Parker sets out with her ‘Finding Henry’ shoes to search the vast liner she is on.
However through this search she makes new friends and finds herself reminiscing about the past voyages while experiencing some new adventures.
The trouble is the new adventures are not memorable, but the events of meeting Henry on that first voyage, her nursing training and other poignant events are as clear as if they happened yesterday.
Mrs Parker cannot understand why everyone is so poorly dressed at breakfast, why she is in a colouring class, gambling in a casino, dancing in a nightclub and with mysterious injuries and what seems like the endless pursuit by the people in blue pyjamas and Tuesday’s child. Amongst the muddle of Mrs Parker’s brain it all makes sense.
All the time she is looking for Henry.
This voyage of Mrs Henry Parker has to come to an end and I was surprised by the twist it took, I had already made my mind up about that had happened to Henry and I was wrong. I am so glad I was.
Some might find this book uncomfortable, tragic in a way that such a thing was allowed to go on. But the author’s insightful research and reading of someone who was suffering with senility was dealt with sympathy and kindness. It might have seemed a strange place to set such a story and how events unfolded, but I have heard first hand that this story is not in fact unique.
This is a wonderful second book from Joanna Nell and she has insightfully captured a rather difficult topic well and shown how important memories are and that we need to make so many of them.
Poignant and thoughtful this book will stay with me for a while yet. If you were a fan of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or the story of Queenie Hennessy then you will enjoy this quiet book with so much to tell.
Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.
The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker is published on 24 September.
It was not until I got to the end of the book that I realised that had to be some insider knowledge and it seems some of the incidents were based on reality.
Read here to get some background on the author and her latest novel.
I also recommend her first novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village which I read reviewed last year.