Friday, September 16, 2011

Literary Friday: The Irresistible Henry House

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This week I read The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald.  It has been in my TBR (to be read) pile forever, and I finally got around to reading it.  

Lisa Grunwald's story was inspired by a photograph of a practice baby from Cornell University's practice house where they used real babies from the 1920's to the 1960's to teach mothering skills to students.  These babies were supplied by a local orphanage.  In Grunwald's book, fictitious Wilton College is the setting, and Martha Gaines is the late forty-ish matron of the practice house program.  She names each baby every year with an "H" name, and gives all of them the last name House.  When Martha brings Henry House home to Wilton's practice house, he is only fourteen weeks old.  Martha prefers her babies to be five or six months old when they begin the program. As Martha introduces Henry to his new temporary home, she whispers to Henry, "I think I am going to love you.  Don't tell a soul."

Henry House does seem to be irresistible to all women with his dark hair and autumn-colored green with orange-flecked eyes.  All of his practice mothers are smitten, and as he grows up, he finds it almost impossible to make choices or commit to girls/women because he can never fulfill what each one desires.  One criticism I have about the book is Henry's angst and animosity directed toward his adoptive mother. I am probably much more sympathetic to her than I should be.  He never seems to mature, and he has trust issues that should not have stemmed from his experiences in the practice house.  I tend to disagree overall with Grumwald's premise.

I do love this book.  I can't help but be completely fascinated by the practice house concept and a matron who rules it with an iron fist.  Martha's schedule is contradictory to everything in Dr. Spock's book with its first line, "You know more than you think."  I also appreciate Grunwald's use of leitmotif.  Many of Henry House's milestones are punctuated by Walt Disney.  Look for this technique early in the book.  I also adore the depiction of the 1960's culture in The Irresistible Henry House.  The book reminds me of Forest Gump in that respect.  Although I personally cannot stand the spoiled generation of the Age of Aquarius, Grunwald's prose is well researched, and it is little wonder that she is also a journalist.  It would not surprise me in the least to discover that she is also an accomplished anthropologist.

I hope Lisa Grunwald writes more fiction in the near future.  The Irresistible Henry House and its inspiration is, well, irresistible!

Don't forget our What We're Reading Linky Party next Tuesday, September 20th. Bonnie is hosting this month!

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

4 comments:

  1. I'll have to tell Nel and Jess about The Irresistible Henry House. They are book lovers. In fact, Jess did a Book Post today. Oh, I LOVE your new HEADER!! That's the scrumptious jam that looks alot like the one I used to eat everyday with buscuits when I worked downtown. Lovely weekend,
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

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  2. I love to read so I'll have to check this one out!

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  3. Irresistible to all women and has "mother" issues. H-um-m-

    I always love reading your reviews, Ricki!

    Thank you for linking to Potpourri Friday! I appreciate you!

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  4. Nice review, sounds like a really good read.
    Hugs,
    Ellen

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