What’s it all about?:
From the author of the 2 million+ copy, worldwide bestseller,The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, an exquisite, funny and heartrending parallel story.
When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note had explained she was dying. How can she wait?
A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘Even though you’ve done your travelling, you’re starting a new journey too.’
Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning.
Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novel about the journey we all must take to learn who we are; it is about loving and letting go. And most of all it is about finding joy in unexpected places and at times we least expect.
What did I think?:
Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry makes its way onto my favourite books of all-time list so it was simply a no-brainer that I was going to read this one, a companion novel to the Harold Fry story, when it came out. The Love Song Of Queenie Hennessy can be read as a stand alone, but to be honest, I think its best if you read Harold Fry first, to get a real flavour of the characters and understand why Harold decides to walk all those miles to visit Queenie in the hospice when he receives her letter that tells him she is dying.
From the very beginning of Harold Fry, I started to fall in love with the character of Queenie and was ecstatic beyond words when I heard that she was going to get her very own voice and we would hear her side of the story. When Queenie hears what Harold is doing, she is both shocked and very excited but feels there are some things that Harold needs to know, things that she has been keeping hidden all these years and a tragedy that she feels responsible for. The kindly nuns suggest that Queenie writes Harold another letter to explain all of this as due to the cancer, Queenie can sadly no longer talk so Queenie does just that.
One letter turns into a epic mountain of a task, with the nuns having to tape the pen to Queenie’s hand so she can carry on writing near the end – she is determined to finish and adamant that she will stay alive until he arrives. Through Queenie’s words we learn about her early life, when she was a young woman and first met Harold, her trials and tribulations through her life, especially with Harold’s son, David, and her beloved sea garden that she constructs and people come from miles around to see. Not only do we learn more about the sweetness that is Queenie with her unrequited love and admiration for Harold but a whole host of whimsical characters in the hospice like Pearly King and the fiesty, foul-mouthed (but ever so loveable) Finty who also find their own determination to live to see Harold Fry arrive.
This novel ticked all the right boxes for me in terms of an amazing plot and stupendous characterisation, which I already knew about from Harold Fry but it was lovely to hear the secrets and drama behind Queenie’s life. Oh my gosh, the sadness though….I remember wanting to cry at the end of Harold Fry but at the end of Queenie Hennessy, Rachel Joyce actually succeeded in making me a sobbing mess – in a good way of course! The prose again was flawless and truly beautiful and the moments of humour combined with the tragedy of it all floored me on many occasions. One of my friends on GoodReads has suggested that there could be a third book, told from the perspective of Harold’s wife, Maureen and I have to admit, I’d love her to give it a shot. Please Rachel Joyce, please?!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):