July 15th, 2013


Book Review: Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow

Mighty Whitey goes to Africa, discovers the meaning of life by frolicking with the colorful and exotic natives... What?

Henderson the Rain King

Penguin Books, 1959, 352 pages

Bellow evokes all the rich colour and exotic customs of a highly imaginary Africa in this comic novel about a middle-aged American millionaire who, seeking a new, more rewarding life, descends upon an African tribe. Henderson's awesome feats of strength and his unbridled passion for life earns him the admiration of the tribe - but it is his gift for making rain that turns him from mere hero into messiah. A hilarious, often ribald story, Henderson the Rain King is also a profound look at the forces that drive a man through life.

Crossposted to books1001.

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Verdict: I did not love it, but I liked it, enough that I would try Saul Bellow again. Henderson the Rain King is a thoughtful but comic adventure as a man who's already seen the world and been there, done that tries to figure out what he's missing and goes dancing with lions in Africa. Largely on the strength of Bellow's prose, I thought this was a book worth reading. So, does it belong on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die? Well, I'm convinced you should read at least one of Bellow's books. Not having read any others, I don't know if this is his best work, but he's included on the list seven times. (And has now been reviewed four times!)

My complete list of book reviews.