Posted by: chartroose | October 3, 2008

The World of Henry Orient

Nora Johnson, 1958, 223 p.

—————————————————————————————————————————————Before I get started on this critique, I’d like to mention a dream I had last night about Sarah Palin.  That’s right—I dreamt about every intelligent woman’s worst nightmare; S. P., the gun totin’, moose murderin’, polar bear hatin’, book bannin’, baby breedin’ “hockey mom.”  The most nightmarish part of the entire dream was that she was nice and I adored her.  I was in the hospital and Sarah was my nurse.  She rubbed sticky lotion on my back and then gently peeled it off.  This made me become limp and giggly with pleasure.  After the peeling was over, she handed me a gigantic purple fruit roll-up to munch on.  I was so overwhelmed by her generosity that I nearly cried.  Please tell me this didn’t have sexual connotations!  I think I need to be thrown into a padded cell immediately!

Now, on to the novel:

I was browsing in my Kindle store about a month ago when I happened upon The World of Henry Orient.  The movie is one of my all-time favorites, so of course I had to buy the book.  I didn’t even know it was a book, so I was overjoyed at this discovery.  What good fortune!  I downloaded it and started reading immediately.

The first thing that struck me was that the book was NOTHING like the movie.  The movie is a sweet little comedy.  The book is a serious little gem.

And that’s the second thing that struck me: The World of Henry Orient is very good.  I was so enthralled that I whizzed through it in no time.  The story centers around two prepubescent girls who attend an exclusive and very class-conscious Manhattan private school.  They are both outcasts.  Gil (the normal one) is ostracised because she’s the new girl and comes from a middle-class “broken” family.  Val (the mental one) is shunned because she’s an odd creative genius.  The two girls find each other, and the rest of the novel focuses on their friendship and their relationships with parents and classmates.

I was shocked to find that the novel had such a dark side, especially since it was written for a 1950’s teen audience.  The major theme of The World of Henry Orient is jealousy.  For awhile, Gil is so jealous of Val that her envy almost destroys their friendship.  Val’s mother is so jealous of her daughter that she tries to sabotage everything that is important to Val, especially her friendship with Gil.  I felt such compassion for Val in this novel.  She was being hammered on all sides, and, being a child, lacked the necessary coping skills to deal with all the stress.  It seemed like everyone was intentionally driving her crazy, including her psychiatrist.

Ms. Johnson did an excellent job with character development in The World of Henry Orient.  My favorite character was Boothy, who lived with Gil and her mother.  She was insightful and humorous, and she was the only person who really understood Val.  My least favorite character was, of course, Val’s mother (Emma Boyd).  I don’t think I’ve despised a character so much since my teen years, when I developed a lifelong murderous hatred for Mrs. Danvers of Rebecca fame!

One thing that was disappointing about the Kindle edition of this novel were all the typos and grammatical errors.  This is the first time I’ve run into this in a Kindle book.  It got so it was almost funny; by the end I was amused when I’d find words like “callled” and “misunderstandnig.”  I should have kept count because there must have been over a hundred misspellings and typographical errors!

As mentioned above, the movie version of The World of Henry Orient is one of my favorite comedies.

It’s funny and sweet, and the cinematography is great.  It was director George Roy Hill’s (The Sting, Butch Cassidy…) first big directing job, and he did it very well.   It was also Nora Johnson’s first and only screen adaptation.   The girls who play Gil and Val are wonderful, and Peter Sellers is hilarious as Henry Orient.  There is no jealousy in this film; the girls love each other, and Val’s mom (Angela Lansbury) is depicted as an insipid slut. The role of Henry Orient was expanded in the film to suit Peter Sellers, who was at the top of his game at the time.

Here’s a clip I found on youtube:

I did some research and found out that Merrie Spaeth (Gil) is a rather powerful member of the Republican Party.  She’s a fervent Dubya supporter, and she worked for Ken Starr during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  That’s too bad because she was such a cute kid!  Tippy Walker (Val) acted in a few more films and then kind of disappeared into obscurity.

One last thing before I go…I’ve purchased two DVD’s of The World of Henry Orient to give away.  If you’d like to own a copy of the film, leave me a comment.  As usual, I’ll draw names.  I’ll do the deed around noon on Monday, October 6th.




  1. […] Original post by Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage! […]

  2. Well I’d love to see this movie as I have a thing for forgotten films … but I don’t know if I’d be able to watch your DVD it being a different format and me being on the other side of the pond?

    But put my name into the hat just for the fun of it…

  3. You bet , Stephen!

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog – I’ve added you to my blogroll and Google Reader.

  5. OMG, I loved that movie! I had no idea it was a book. Now I have to add that to my list. I do have to work you know. And they’ve been MAKING ME WORK. Oh the humanity.

    I’m off to gaze at my promised Clive Owen picture.

  6. I’d love to watch this movie, especially after the way you have raved about it!!! What a generous blogger you are to buy the DVD’s for us….that means a lot that you want to share your favorites with us!!! Thank you!
    Now about your dream…..were you eating anythin grape before you went to bed??? They say our dreams are a reflection of the previous 24 hours, ie: whatever happened during the day shows up somehow in your dreams that night. Hope that helps!!
    Thank you for all that you do for us!!
    darbyscloset (at)yahoo (dot) com

  7. I don’t think that dream means you’re suddenly going lesbo. I think Darby is right. Dreams are a reflection of your subconscious, but they’re not literal. You might have been thinking Sarah is horrid, just in passing, and . . . yeah, eating a grape or thirsty for grape juice or saw a fruit roll-up ad and didn’t pay attention to it. Brains do funny things. They take your thoughts and play with them.

    Unless, of course, you have psychic dreams like I do. And, maybe it means that Sarah is going to take over the world and we’ll all be pleading with her to please send scientists to space to grow grapes because she’s killed the polar bears and then, as a part of the sudden, stunning domino effect that will eventually kill . . . well, all other life on earth (but not just yet), there’s now no way to grow grapes on the home planet, thus necessitating the need to grow them elsewhere. And like nurses who must save us from the doctors who order the wrong drug combination that occurred because they interrupted the doctor with an emergency call in the midst of writing the prescription, the evil woman who caused the problem turns out to be, ironically, our only hope.

    Obviously, I need more sleep, myself.

  8. Oh my heavenly day. Your dream is priceless. I was almost sad there was more post after that because I kinda wanted only that in my mind today. Excellent.

  9. Holy crap, that wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare!

    And it’s good to have you back commenting on my blog!

  10. Re your dream-are: I wish she HAD become a nurse!

    I’ve never heard of this movie or novel. Sounds great!

  11. Bermuda–I was going to add you and some other bloggers to my blogroll today, but took a nap instead. Isn’t that terrible? You will be on it soon.

    Darby–I was admiring the grapevive outside my bathroom window when I was soaking in the tub earlier in the evening, so maybe you’re right. I hope so!

    Nancy–LOL! Do you really have psychic dreams? I need to hear more about these! I think you’re absolutely right–if the polar bears (and moosies and wolvies) become extinct, then a domino effect COULD occur, and eventually, grapes could die. It could happen! Since Sarah is a Jesus freak, she could become some kind of savior. Now for the other thing; I hope I’m not turning lesbo! If I am, my, um, guy “friend” might have something to say, although he might kind of…oh I’m not going there!

    Thank you Debbie, softdrink and Bybee! I wish Ms. Palin had become a nurse, or taken the Bridge to Nowhere, or gets banned from all public libraries and other government run institutions!

  12. Me! Me me me!!!

    “A true misunderstandnig would never take place when one is callled proprely and in a frothright mannner.”

    (I also wanted to tell you that a day or so after you last giveaway, I ran into the word ‘expurgated’ in the book I was reading. cool, huh?)

  13. oh, yea. creepy dream. Did you see Tina Fey last night?

    Feeling all ‘mavericky’ now?

  14. Ok, that dream is just creepy! Poor you. 🙂

    I’ve never heard of this book or even the movie; wow, I’m out of touch. It sounds marvellous though so please add me into the draw. Thanks!

  15. What a great post! I love when you stumble upon great movies and realize they are based on a book or vise versa. Thanks for the contest. I’ll have to read the book now 🙂

  16. Love the dream…..maybe she is a nice person if you take away the guns,the polar bear thing, the wolf thing and the weird ideas…a fruit roll up kinda gal.(wink)
    Loved that movie when it first came out. Of course I ws just an infant then, but boy did I love Peter Sellers.

  17. What a funny dream! I hope I don’t dream about her-I hear about her all day long; if she took over my sleep, I just couldn’t take it! Enter me please, I haven’t seen it since I was a kid.

  18. What an odd dream. It makes me think of trying to embrace parts of things that aren’t always pleasant or attractive.

    On a shallow note, I usually love books about my hometown. I like to see if the landmarks and attitudes are right.

  19. […] What was the last book you bought? The World of Henry Orient by Nora Johnson.  My review is here. […]

  20. Tippy Walker has a blog that hasn’t been updated since the start of the year. Apparently she was homeless for a time. She also has posted comments on the forums for “The World of Henry Orient”.

    Here’s here blog:

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