• Henderson the Rain King

  • By: Saul Bellow
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 13-08-2009
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.3 (3 ratings)

Editorial Reviews

Summoning a deluge from the sky, building an explosive to rid a pond of frogs, forging an intimate bond with a powerful lion — these are just some of the actions undertaken in Africa by the title character in Saul Bellow's astounding, inventive novel Henderson The Rain King.
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and a titan of 20th-century American fiction, Bellow belongs to a select group of skilled American novelists (with John Updike and Philip Roth) best known for their precise examinations of middle-aged, middle-class men yearning for more out of life than two cars or two houses. Bellow's title character in Henderson harbors the same, ceaseless hunger for life, manifested in a voice inside him which cries out day in and day out, "I want, I want, I want." But while Roth and Updike's characters rarely stray far from America's northeast corridor, the voice inside Eugene Henderson compels him to travel to remote corners of civilization in Africa.
A brief summary of the novel's plot sounds preposterous: a middle-aged millionaire travels to Africa, where he becomes The Rain King. But Bellow manages to make such a seemingly far-fetched story sound believable one sentence at a time.
And narrator Joe Barrett's grizzled voice is perfect for bringing to life Henderson's unique perspective and tone. In the beginning, Henderson is like one of those pushy, half-drunk loudmouths you can't wait to get away from in line at an airline counter. Listening to Barrett squawk Henderson's wisecracks and American slang in Africa initially gives the book an absurd, humorous quality. But as this fable-like novel progresses, Henderson gradually — and plausibly — evolves into a God-like figure. Barrett makes the dramatic transformation, as well as the entirety of Henderson's mad-cap journey, sound realistic. —Ken Ross
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Publisher's Summary

Ranked #21 on Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels, Henderson the Rain King's blend of philosophical discourse and comic adventure has helped make it one of Bellow's most enduringly popular works. It is said to be Bellow's own favorite among his books.
Bellow evokes all the rich color 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 earn 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.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Saul Bellow's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Azar Nafisi about the life and work of Saul Bellow – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.
©1959 Saul Bellow (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"A kind of wildly delirious dream made real by the force of Bellow's rollicking prose and the offbeat inventiveness of his language." ( Chicago Tribune)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Chris Reich on 07-10-2014

Amazing Book on Many Levels

I hate to write a trite review about a great book so I won't. I won't recap the story.

I will say that if you are male and have 40+ years under your belt, you will enjoy and be deeply touched by this incredible book. All others? You probably like it, maybe a lot.

This, I believe, is a book men need to read. And women? You'll get the inside scoop on the male psyche.

Don't miss this masterpiece.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Emeritus on 09-01-2014

Read it again as a grownup

Many of us read Henderson when we were in our Modern Literature courses in college and my recollection was sketchy and an outline of the book, if that, from my 20's. As an adult who has gone through life transitions, I wish I had read Henderson a decade ago in my 50's, when I was searching, like we all do, for some type of affirmation of my life or, lacking that, try another journey. The book is wonderful in all regards - a huge and compelling metaphor for aging, anxiety, humor as a weapon, self-doubt coupled with a desire for....."I want, I WANT". Henderson is a great read with a great performance and, in the highest form of flattering I can offer, made me go out to order the book so I can underline all the parts and phrases I loved and want to remember. Just terrific. The voices will live in my head forever.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Catherine on 05-03-2012

A new favourite

I hadn't heard of this book, which I now find is on several 'best of ..' lists. And what a treat! It will be my 'desert island' book having comedy, adventure, thoughtfulness and joy. Its wonderful to be old and have your prejudices turned over. During the course of the book I moved from antibodies to the protagonist to recognising him as a force of nature.
And wonderfully read by Joe Barrett.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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