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Book Review - 'The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker' By Joanna Nell

Where do I start with this book? This is one of the best stories I have read in a very long time. Like me, the author writes about older characters and works in health provision in her day job. This is the first book I have read by Joanna and I love, love, loved it.

Evelyn, or ‘Mrs Henry Parker ‘ to you, is living out the rest of her days on The Golden Sunset, a luxurious yet dated cruise ship. She is the wife of the ship’s doctor and is well known to the crew. Henry is now retired, and they get to spend the rest of their days enjoying the precious time together. If only she could find him. He seems to have gone missing.

She finds some white sneakers. Where did they come from? Not her style at all, but they are very comfy and great for walking around the ship in search of her missing husband. She calls them her ‘Finding Henry Shoes.’

Evelyn spends her evenings dressing for dinner, on one embarrassing occasion finding herself turning up to breakfast dressed to the nines. She was sure it was dinner time?

She spends her days telling fellow passengers all about her life, her work as nurse, her journey to Australia all those years ago, how she met Henry, and their life together.

Evelyn meets fellow passengers, Frank and…. Um…. Fizzy Cola…. Nola, that’s it, during a colouring in class. Despite her failing memory, she finds ways to remember forgotten names.

Frank and Nola quickly become her friends, staying by Evelyn’s side while she searches for Henry and entertains them with her stories. Where is that husband of hers? She is sure he will turn up, eventually.

Evelyn finds out this will be her last voyage and she will have to leave the ship. Her home. Is the ship being decommissioned? She can’t leave without Henry. What is going on?

The author approaches dementia with both sensitivity and care. I work as a Clinical Nurse Consultant who specialises in dementia in my day job. This book hit me smack bang in all the feels. I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I gasped, and I rode the roller-coaster of emotions with Evelyn. I was totally immersed in Evelyn's journey from woe to go. I couldn't put it down.

It is evident that the author understands this disease and the complex issues that come with it, such as ensuring a person-centred individual approach to care.

This is a story of love, loss, and the memories we hold close to our heart. Even the ones we have forgotten. I was bawling my eyes out on the last few pages. Both tears of sadness and joy.

There are a few surprises for the reader you won’t see coming. I would give this book 6 stars if I could. A wonderful, heart-warming read.

  • “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

  • “For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.” ~Hasidic saying

  • “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

  • “I’m baffled that anyone might not think women get more beautiful as they get older. Confidence comes with age, and looking beautiful comes from the confidence someone has in themselves.” ~Kate Winslet

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