2010: 72. Henderson the Rain King

“What made me make the trip to Africa? There is no quick explanation.”

Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow

      I’m starting to think that Bellow is just not for me, because I loathed Henderson the Rain King.  So much, that I started to look back on Augie March with fondness.  It took me forever to finish this one, too - and I only managed to squeak through by sheer cussedness.  Nothing in this book did anything for me, and I cannot imagine how it could possibly the the 21st most influential novel of the twentieth century (or whatever the Modern Library criteria is).  In fact, I could just skip this blog post, and include this old New York Times review, and that would just about do it for me.  What he said.

       But since that would defeat the purpose of the blog, let me add this.  The novel is the story of Henderson, a rich and troubled middle aged man who goes to Africa to find spiritual enlightenment among the natives there, and ends up getting involved with a King, a lion, and becoming a rain god of sorts.  It’s the kind of book that is supposed to be comic, with a bumbling self-absorbed main character, and philosophic, and which I just find tiresome (indeed, Henderson reminded me of a less mentally ill Ignatius J. Reilly, in another book that I absolutely do not see the appeal of ).  I didn’t find it funny and I didn’t fine the philosophy interesting - instead I was bored.  And I found the African characters a little dubious, too.  Yuck.


Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017