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The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
     

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

4.5 14
by Rachel Joyce
 

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From the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry comes an exquisite love story about Queenie Hennessy, the remarkable friend who inspired Harold’s cross-country journey.

A runaway international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry followed its unassuming hero on an incredible journey as

Overview

From the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry comes an exquisite love story about Queenie Hennessy, the remarkable friend who inspired Harold’s cross-country journey.

A runaway international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry followed its unassuming hero on an incredible journey as he traveled the length of England on foot—a journey spurred by a simple letter from his old friend Queenie Hennessy, writing from a hospice to say goodbye. Harold believed that as long as he kept walking, Queenie would live. What he didn’t know was that his decision to walk had caused her both alarm and fear. How could she wait? What would she say? Forced to confront the past, Queenie realizes she must write again.

In this poignant parallel story to Harold’s saga, acclaimed author Rachel Joyce brings Queenie Hennessy’s voice into sharp focus. Setting pen to paper, Queenie makes a journey of her own, a journey that is even bigger than Harold’s; one word after another, she promises to confess long-buried truths—about her modest childhood, her studies at Oxford, the heartbreak that brought her to Kingsbridge and to loving Harold, her friendship with his son, the solace she has found in a garden by the sea. And, finally, the devastating secret she has kept from Harold for all these years.

A wise, tender, layered novel that gathers tremendous emotional force, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy underscores the resilience of the human spirit, beautifully illuminating the small yet pivotal moments that can change a person’s life.

Praise for The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

“In the end, this lovely book is full of joy. Much more than the story of a woman’s enduring love for an ordinary, flawed man, it’s an ode to messy, imperfect, glorious, unsung humanity. . . . [Queenie’s] love song is for us. Thank you, Rachel Joyce.”The Washington Post

“Destined to change your world. One can’t help but see life, and the end of it, differently after experiencing this novel. Full of wisdom and heart, it will overwhelm its readers with a deep sensitivity.”—Bookreporter

“[A] beguiling follow-up . . . In telling Queenie’s side of the story, Joyce accomplishes the rare feat of endowing her continuing narrative with as much pathos and warmth, wisdom and poignancy as her debut. Harold was beloved by millions; Queenie will be, too.”Booklist (starred review)

“Delightful and dark . . . But Joyce is so deft that when the book is over and you close the cover, the darkness fades. What sticks with you is the light of Queenie’s unwavering love.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] deeply affecting novel . . . Culminating in a shattering revelation, [Queenie’s] tale is funny, sad, hopeful: She’s bound for death, but full of life.”People

“Joyce’s writing at moments has a simplicity that sings. She captures hope best of all.”The Guardian

“Joyce has a wonderfully evocative turn of phrase and like her other books this is a delightful read. . . . Uplifting and moving.”Daily Express

“Joyce nicely calls the book a companion rather than a sequel. But The Love Song is bolder than a retread of the same material from another angle. . . . After two such involving novels, readers are bound to wish for a third.”The Telegraph

“[Joyce] manages to both add depth to an already strong work and build something new and beautiful upon it.”The A.V. Club


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
09/01/2014
Joyce's celebrated debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, opened with cancer-ridden Queenie Hennessy writing a good-bye letter to an old friend. Here, Queenie has written another letter, unsent, that details her upbringing and what working with Harold has meant to her. A lovely complement to Pilgrimage that also works as a stand-alone
Publishers Weekly
03/09/2015
Joyce's bestselling novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, followed the journey of Harold, a retiree who chose to walk the entire length of England to reunite with an old friend. This novel focuses on the old friend in question: Queenie Hennessy, who's dying of cancer in a hospice in northern England. When she receives word that Harold's begun walking the 600 miles to see her, Queenie's apprehensive: they haven't seen each other in 20 years. As she begins to write in a long letter to Harold, readers see that their unorthodox friendship was far more complicated than Harold may think. Through Queenie's flashbacks, we see the beginnings of their friendship when they met as coworkers at the local brewery. We also learn new information about Queenie's secret friendship with Harold's teen son, David; the circumstances around David's tragic early death; and Queenie's long-hidden feelings for Harold. In the present day, Queenie's fellow patients in the hospice also take up the mantle of waiting for Harold, and some poignant and hilarious new bonds form. Fans of Harold's story will appreciate a chance to meet him again and hear his story from a new angle, and after a slow and slightly confusing start, even newcomers to Queenie and Harold's doomed love story will not be immune to its charms. A bittersweet final twist is a fitting cap to a tragic, touching tale. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“In the end, this lovely book is full of joy. Much more than the story of a woman’s enduring love for an ordinary, flawed man, it’s an ode to messy, imperfect, glorious, unsung humanity. . . . [Queenie’s] love song is for us. Thank you, Rachel Joyce.”The Washington Post
 
“Destined to change your world. One can’t help but see life, and the end of it, differently after experiencing this novel. Full of wisdom and heart, it will overwhelm its readers with a deep sensitivity.”—Bookreporter
 
“[A] beguiling follow-up . . . In telling Queenie’s side of the story, Joyce accomplishes the rare feat of endowing her continuing narrative with as much pathos and warmth, wisdom and poignancy as her debut. Harold was beloved by millions; Queenie will be, too.”Booklist (starred review)
 
“Delightful and dark . . . But Joyce is so deft that when the book is over and you close the cover, the darkness fades. What sticks with you is the light of Queenie’s unwavering love.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“[A] deeply affecting novel . . . Culminating in a shattering revelation, [Queenie’s] tale is funny, sad, hopeful: She’s bound for death, but full of life.”People
 
“Joyce’s writing at moments has a simplicity that sings. She captures hope best of all.”The Guardian
 
“Joyce has a wonderfully evocative turn of phrase and like her other books this is a delightful read. . . . Queenie is an uplifting and moving companion to Harold.”Daily Express
 
“Joyce nicely calls the book a companion rather than a sequel. But The Love Song is bolder than a retread of the same material from another angle. . . . After two such involving novels, readers are bound to wish for a third.”The Telegraph
 
“[Joyce] manages to both add depth to an already strong work and build something new and beautiful upon it.”The A.V. Club
 
“A wonderful read . . . It is not necessary to read Harold’s story before reading Queenie’s to enjoy this bittersweet novel, which is a pleasure in its own right. However, reading both will only serve to double that pleasure.”The Independent
Kirkus Reviews
2014-12-16
Joyce (Perfect, 2014, etc.) offers an introspective follow-up to her 2012 breakout debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.Queenie Hennessy has entered St. Bernadine's Hospice in northeast England. Cancer has destroyed her throat and jaw, and now she awaits death among "rejects, you might say...and it was a relief, a blessed relief." Word comes that a friend, Harold Fry, has learned of her illness. He intends to walk from Kingsbridge, 600 miles away. Harold wants Queenie to wait for him. What follows is a history of their fractured friendship, with her confession as the narrative's heart. Decades prior, when the two worked together, Queenie fell in love with Harold but never revealed her feelings. "I loved your voice, your walk, your marriage, your hands, your zigzag socks...for God's sake, everything about you." Harold had a brilliant son, David, a troubled young man—"For all his selfishness, he was as astute as a knife"—whom Queenie attempted to help. "I had promised myself that I would be a bridge between you and your son, and I was out of my depth." David committed suicide. In Queenie's meditative memories—"There is a huge story ahead of me, and the truth is so complicated"—her remembrance of unrequited love is shared with a sometimes-funny, sometimes-sad reflection on life's bitter end. Any pathos is mostly subsumed by wry humor and clarity regarding life's foibles, the story ending with a beautiful twist reminding us we all journey through life as lonely, sometimes-inarticulate pilgrims. Reading Harold Fry first will allow this deeply emotional novel to resonate more fully.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812996661
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/03/2015
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
2,563
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

All you have to do is wait!

Your letter arrived this morning. We were in the dayroom for morning activities. Everyone was asleep.

Sister Lucy, who is the youngest nun volunteering in the hospice, asked if anyone would like to help with her new jigsaw. Nobody answered. “Scrabble?” she said.

Nobody stirred.

“How about Mousetrap?” said Sister Lucy. “That’s a lovely game.”

I was in a chair by the window. Outside, the winter evergreens flapped and shivered. One lone seagull balanced in the sky.

“Hangman?” said Sister Lucy. “Anyone?”

A patient nodded, and Sister Lucy fetched paper. By the time she’d got sorted, pens and a glass of water and so on, he was dozing again.

Life is different for me at the hospice. The colors, the smells, the way a day passes. But I close my eyes and I pretend that the heat of the radiator is the sun on my hands and the smell of lunch is salt in the air. I hear the patients cough, and it is only the wind in my garden by the sea. I can imagine all sorts of things, Harold, if I put my mind to it.

Sister Catherine strode in with the morning delivery. “Post!” she sang. Full volume. “Look what I have here!”

“Oh, oh, oh,” went everyone, sitting up.

Sister Catherine passed several brown envelopes, forwarded, to a Scotsman known as Mr. Henderson. There was a card for the new young woman. (She arrived yesterday. I don’t know her name.) There is a big man they call the Pearly King, and he had another parcel though I have been here a week and I haven’t yet seen him open one. The blind lady, Barbara, received a note from her neighbor—­Sister Catherine read it out—­spring is coming, it said. The loud woman called Finty opened a letter informing her that if she scratched off the foil window, she would discover that she’d won an exciting prize.

“And, Queenie, something for you.” Sister Catherine crossed the room, holding out an envelope. “Don’t look so frightened.”

I knew your writing. One glance and my pulse was flapping. Great, I thought. I don’t hear from the man in twenty years, and then he sends a letter and gives me a heart attack.

I stared at the postmark. Kingsbridge. Straight away I could picture the muddy blue of the estuary, the little boats moored to the quay. I heard the slapping of water against the plastic buoys and the clack of rigging against the masts. I didn’t dare open the envelope. I just kept looking and looking and remembering.

Sister Lucy rushed to my aid. She tucked her childlike finger under the flap and wiggled it along the fold to tear the envelope open. “Shall I read it out for you, Queenie?” I tried to say no, but the no came out as a funny noise she mistook for a yes. She unfolded the page, and her face seeped with pink. Then she began to read. “It’s from someone called Harold Fry.”

She went as slowly as she could, but there were a few words only. “I am very sorry. Best wishes. Oh, but there’s a P.S. too,” said Sister Lucy. “He says, Wait for me.” She gave an optimistic shrug. “Well, that’s nice. Wait for him? I suppose he’s going to make a visit.”

Sister Lucy folded the letter carefully and tucked it back inside the envelope. Then she placed my post in my lap, as if that were the end of it. A warm tear slipped down the side of my nose. I hadn’t heard your name spoken for twenty years. I had held the words only inside my head.

“Aw,” said Sister Lucy. “Don’t be upset, Queenie. It’s all right.” She pulled a tissue from the family-­size box on the coffee table and carefully wiped the corner of my closed-­up eye, my stretched mouth, even the thing that is on the side of my face. She held my hand, and all I could think of was my hand in yours, long ago, in a stationery cupboard.

“Maybe Harold Fry will come tomorrow,” said Sister Lucy.

At the coffee table, Finty still scratched away at the foil window on her letter. “Come on, you little bugger,” she grunted.

“Did you say ‘Harold Fry’?” Sister Catherine jumped to her feet and clapped her hands as if she was trapping an insect. It was the loudest thing that had happened all morning, and everyone murmured “Oh, oh, oh” again. “How could I have forgotten? He rang yesterday. Yes. He rang from a phone box.” She spoke in small broken sentences, the way you do when you’re trying to make sense of something that essentially doesn’t. “The line was bad and he kept laughing. I couldn’t understand a word. Now I think about it, he was saying the same thing. About waiting. He said to tell you he was walking.” She slipped a yellow Post-­it note from her pocket and quickly unfolded it.

“Walking?” said Sister Lucy, suggesting this was not something she’d tried before.

“I assumed he wanted directions from the bus station. I told him to turn left and keep going.”

A few of the volunteers laughed, and I nodded as if they were right, they were right to laugh, because it was too much, you see, to show the consternation inside me. My body felt both weak and hot.

Sister Catherine studied her yellow note. “He said to tell you that as long as he walks, you must wait. He also said he’s setting off from Kingsbridge.” She turned to the other nuns and volunteers. “Kingsbridge? Does anyone know where that is?”

Sister Lucy said maybe she did but she was pretty sure she didn’t. Someone told us he’d had an old aunt who lived there once. And one of the volunteers said, “Oh, I know Kingsbridge. It’s in South Devon.”

“South Devon?” Sister Catherine paled. “Do you think he meant he’s walking to Northumberland from all the way down there?” She was not laughing anymore, and neither was anyone else. They were only looking at me and looking at your letter and seeming rather anxious and lost. Sister Catherine folded her Post-­it note and disappeared it into the side pocket of her robe.

“Bull’s-­eye!” shouted Finty. “I’ve won a luxury cruise! It’s a fourteen-­night adventure, all expenses paid, on the Princess Emerald!”

“You have not read the small print,” grumbled Mr. Henderson. And then, louder: “The woman has not read the small print.”

I closed my eyes. A little later I felt the sisters hook their arms beneath me and lift my body into the wheelchair. It was like the way my father carried me when I was a girl and I had fallen asleep in front of the range. “Stille, stille,” my mother would say. I held tight on to your envelope, along with my notebook. I saw the dancing of crimson light beyond my eyelids as we moved from the dayroom to the corridor and then past the windows. I kept my eyes shut all the way, even as I was lowered onto the bed, even as the curtains were drawn with a whoosh against the pole, even as I heard the click of the door, afraid that if I opened my eyes the wash of tears would never stop.

Harold Fry is coming, I thought. I have waited twenty years, and now he is coming.

Meet the Author

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Prize and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards New Writer of the Year in 2012. She is also the author of the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

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The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this sweet book by Rachel Joyce and wanted to revisit The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as he walks from the south of England to see Queenie in Berwick-upon-Tweed. This is Queenie's story and the characters in Harold's book are more richly developed through their interaction with Queenie and a handful of new characters deftly created by Rachel Joyce awaiting the arrival of Harold Fry in the Hospice they share with Queenie. I love the audacious Finty with her brash language and live out loud attitude and Barbara with her delicate and childlike qualities. Sister Mary Inconnu reminds me of the voice that keeps you on a straight path and Mr. Henderson is lovable if cantankerous at times. It's a book about forgiveness and acceptance and I want to read Harold's and Queenie's books side by side as the companions that they were. I especially liked the additional development of the character David Fry, Harold's son, through his interactions with Queenie. If you enjoyed Harold's story as he made his way to see his dear friend and work colleague, Queenie, then you'll love to hear her side of the story. We all just want to be accepted for who we are and noticed and so does Queenie when at last she says "Here I am!" I look forward to more works from Rachel Joyce and hope that you enjoy this story as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once in a great while, I read a book and think, "Does this author know me?" It seems that it was written to send me a personal message. This was one of those books. This story is a sequel to "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry," which I highly recommend you read before reading this one, as there are continual references back to Harold's story, and also because it would ruin the surprises in the Harold book. At first, I was a little disappointed in the book because I didn't think it was as good as "Harold Fry," even though it is filled with some very colorful characters with richly distinct voices. But when I got to the end, I was profoundly moved. It spoke directly to me. Queenie's realizations were something we all should hear. Joyce managed to write a book that is both entertaining and insightful. I highly recommend this book, but save it to read after her previous novel, "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually read this before Rachel's first book, but it didn't matter. This story touched me on many levels and is written beautifully. The strength of the human spirit and the love between persons is so uplifting! I recommend this book to everyone - read the companion book written from Harold Frye's perspective, too.
Ilovemister More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was as good as as the first book which is one of my all time favorite books. It was funny and sad. It shows that the old spirits  still have senses of humor, etc... It really touched me as my mom is in a nursing home and I could relate. Grat work!!! She is a great writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great companion novel to The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry. I would suggest reading Harold first. Enjoy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful kind of book what a interesting one too it have all the information you want about it is in there look and you'll see thank you please read it .
crossword69 More than 1 year ago
Beautiful touching story. Wonderful sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. 
Anonymous 5 days ago
If it hadn't been for the nuns in this story I don't think I would have finished reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a joy to read.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“If only memory were a library with everything stored where it should be. If only you could walk to the desk and say to the assistant, I’d like to return the painful memories about … and take out some happier ones, please” The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennessy is the third novel by actress, radio playwright and author, Rachel Joyce, and is a companion volume to her first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Queenie Hennessy is dying. When she hears that Harold Fry is walking from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed to save her, that all she has to do is wait, she is transported back twenty years to Kingsbridge, to the brewery, to her relationship with Harold Fry. Her guilt about the events of that time has haunted her ever since, but a volunteer nun at St Bernadine’s Hospice convinces her to write to Harold Fry, to confess the truth, finally, before she dies.  As Queenie fills her notebook, the events that led to her departure from Kingsbridge are revealed: some things, readers of Harold Fry will have suspected; others, they will have wondered about; and some will come as a complete surprise. Interspersed with her confessions are descriptions of Queenie’s Sea Garden and bits of everyday life in a hospice, some of which are hilarious (nutritional protein shakes that taste like wet cardboard, diversional therapy ideas, knitted syringe-driver covers), others, like the inevitable deaths, sad.  Joyce gives the reader a cast of quirky characters: naïve nuns (and some very wise ones); a cranky Scot; a foul-mouthed woman who loves hats and entering competitions; a one-armed man constantly in receipt of parcels and an inexperienced counselor. She gives Queenie many words of wisdom: “We write ourselves certain parts and then keep playing them as if we have no choice”; “I found out what was right only by getting it wrong”; “Sometimes people judge their happiness by the price they have to pay for it. The more they’ve spent, the happier they think they will be” and “…sometimes you cannot clear the past completely. You must live alongside your sorrow” are a few examples. Joyce has, of course, ensured that the events of this novel dovetail perfectly with Harold Fry, and while Queenie Hennessy can be read independently of the earlier book, readers will find that the experience is much enhanced by reading Harold Fry first. Once again, the illustrations by Andrew Davidson are truly charming. Fans of Harold Fry will not be disappointed: if anything, Queenie Hennessy surpasses that book with its characters and also some lovely descriptive prose: “I have noticed the rain clouds drawing over the earth like a slate tablecloth and the wind beating at the black sea and tossing the gulls up and down like twists of white paper” and “The small leaves on the tree outside my window have stretched into green hands”. A delightful read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great followup to harold Fry's trek
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When you look at me you see your best friend you see the person you trust you think i see that when i look at you. Boy i dont see jut my best friend or my confadant i see the boy i want to spend the rest of my life with. Boy when will you see i truely love you. Boy why are you so clueless i gave little hints why are you so clueless oh oh oh. I may be your best friend but i want to be so much more. Boy i love you tht is how i truely feel