Tuesday, 21 August 2007

In Search of Henry by Arnold Powell

This book was a page turner. Written on almost two levels, Firstly set in Baltimore 1916 is the story of Henry, a young man of Jewish faith, who migrates with his widowed mother from England to the US to be near his married sister, leaving several siblings in England. Henry meets Claire, a young woman, a talented pianist who follows the Roman Catholic faith. After a courtship of nearly two years the couple marry in secret and eventually tell both families. Henry's mother and sisters, although not overly happy, begin to accept Claire, whilst Claire's parents do the opposite and disown her. They couple have two children and all is well until Henry contracts an illness which leaves him a resident in a Psychiatric hospital, a shadow of his former self. Claire, looks at her options and files for divorce although never stops loving Henry and remarries, out of fondness for an old school friend and necessity.

The second stage of the story is set in the late 1990s and early 2000s, around the research of a descendant of one of the siblings of Henry left in England. Alf starts to research his ancestry following the birth of his young son. He meets a fellow descendant and together they research the lives of Henry and his ancestors, who migrated to England from Poland. From research they learn of the divorce of Claire and of the death of Henry, but after they have started corresponding with one of Claire's grandchildren, and the divorce was never mentioned. The lesson to be learn't is that sometimes our ancestors did thing out of necessity and in some cases falsified the facts and events.

The quest was to search for Henry and this Alf did. An interesting book, written in fiction style, based upon true events, with details of the records themselves and where they were located.

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