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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 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.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Excerpted from "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy"
Copyright © 2016 Rachel Joyce.
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Reading Group Guide
A Letter from Rachel Joyce
Dear Friend of Harold Fry,
When The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was first published, a few people asked if I would be writing a sequel. I quickly assured them that I would not. I felt that I had said everything I needed to say about Harold and Maureen and it was time to let them get on with life, without me watching and taking notes. The person I didn’t consider was Queenie Hennessy, Harold’s friend: the woman whose first letter inspired a walk that changed Harold Fry’s life and, to some extent, mine. She remained very quiet (which is exactly the sort of thing Queenie would do), and then out of the blue one day she shouted, “Here I am!”
It was not good timing. I was twenty thousand words into a new book. I was also working on a radio piece. The last thing I needed was to start writing something else. But then there I was in the kitchen with my children when Queenie’s story arrived. It was one of those ideas that come in a flash, but fully dressed, so that you feel they’ve been around a long time. I told my children because it was so exciting, this idea, I couldn’t keep it to myself. And my children said something along the lines of “Yes, very good. Now, what’s for lunch?”
That night I barely slept. I had Queenie’s words, her stories, spinning in my head. I didn’t know if any of those words made sense, but I did know that I was at the beginning of something and that I would have to stay with it and find the whole story. In the morning, when I looked again at The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, it occurred to me that in truth I’d had the idea of writing from Queenie’s perspective long before—I had written one small piece, that taste of her voice, in the Harold Fry chapter “Queenie and the Present.” I’d had the idea and I hadn’t quite seen it.
Over the last few years, I have talked a lot about Harold Fry. But sometimes people have asked me about Queenie, too. And there have been a few readers, I admit, who have asked, Why? Why did I have to give Queenie her disfiguring cancer? I always explain—as gently as I can, although it is still an emotional answer for me—that this was how it was for my father and I felt I must be true to that. But that answer has also bothered me, because although my father’s cancer was terrible to look at by the end, it wasn’t him. When I think of him now, for instance, I think of the man who was my father before the cancer. I think of him laughing or calling “Watcha, Rache!” or walking past the window with a ladder. It is the same with Queenie. She had a voice, a life, before she was the woman we find in a hospice at the end of the book. I wanted to discover all that. When Queenie retells the story from her own perspective, she never uses the word “cancer,” and she barely refers to her appearance. The cancer is not her journey. Her journey is one of reparation. In telling her story, she becomes whole.
My father died at home. He was not in pain. So to write this book, I spent time with several Macmillan Cancer Support nurses and visited two hospices for the terminally ill. Before I went, I felt fearful. Would I see anything I shouldn’t? Would I be frightened? Make a fool of myself and cry? But what struck me about both the hospices and the nurses was the life in them. The joy. The hospices were full of light, full of activity, and full of laughter. The nurses I met had endless hilarious stories to tell. And so I set out to write a book about dying that was full of life. It seems to me that you can’t really write about one without the other—just as you can’t really write about happiness if you don’t confront sadness. It’s by looking at the whole shape of something, I think, that you see it for what it is.
In the hospices we talked a lot about dying. We talked, too, about my father and his own death. At the end of one meeting, the manager said to me, “You need to write this book.” I probably cried, because it had been an emotional day. But I cried also because he was right.
And so I made my own hospice, St. Bernadine’s. Several patients arrived—quite shady in my mind to begin with, but gathering color and volume as I wrote. They became a sort of chorus for Queenie—her backing vocalists, if you like. The nuns who look after these patients were inspired by the community of seven nuns who live in our village in Gloucestershire. I saw one of them the day we first came to see the house—a figure walking the land in a cream robe and black apron—and there was something so serene about that picture that these nuns instantly became part of my experience of where I live. Only yesterday I opened the gate to fetch my car and found a nun pressed against our garden wall. She seemed to be waiting for something, or possibly blowing her nose. I have no idea, really, but whatever it was, she was very good-humored about it.
In order to find Queenie’s home, her beach house, I returned to Berwick-upon-Tweed with my husband and children and we visited the stunning Northumberland coastline. I went back twice more. It was on our final visit—the weekend before I submitted the typescript—that we found Embleton Bay and the wooden beach houses up on the cliff. Queenie’s house is one I made in my head, but if you ever go to Embleton Bay, you will find a set of sand steps carved into the dunes that might once have led to her garden.
Queenie’s sea garden began as just that—three words. It was after studying Northumberland gardens and coastal paths that my imagination planted her sea garden with flowers and driftwood figures. I am glad she has those. She fills her garden with the people in her life in the same way that I fill my writing with the people in mine. And, by the way, my children are very glad to see that our old border terrier, Dog, is back.
It has been an extraordinary thing for me to revisit Harold Fry and replay some of those chapters with a new twist. It has been something, too, to give Maureen a different voice, and David—and to find the Harold Fry that Queenie and indeed Maureen fell in love with. For me, it isn’t just Queenie who feels put back together; it is them, too.
And, for the record, I still would say that I have not written a sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I have not written a prequel either. What I have written is a book that sits alongside Harold Fry. They really should come that way—her in the passenger seat, him in the driver’s seat. Side by side.
I would call this book a companion.
1. Rachel Joyce says that she has written a book that sits alongside The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Did you read Harold Fry before reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy? If so, how did it enhance your reading? If not, what was your first impression of Harold, as seen from Queenie’s point of view?
2. Joyce begins the novel with Queenie’s letter and a confession to Harold: “I will confess everything, because you were right that day. There were so many things you didn’t see. There are so many things you still don’t know.” In addition to giving the novel urgency, are the letters and postcards scattered throughout the novel effective touchstones for the journeys both characters are on?
3. Joyce weaves significant scenes from St. Bernadine’s Hospice into the novel. Did you have preconceived notions of what a hospice is like? Did those scenes change your view? Why do you think it was important for Joyce to infuse humor into some of the darker scenes? For example, how did you feel about this approach when Finty, Mr. Henderson, the Pearly King, and Barbara discuss what music they’d like played at their funerals, and in their ongoing discussions about dying?
4. Queenie first sees Harold dancing on his own in the snow and is immediately drawn to him. What do you think was special about Harold? At what moment did you discover that she was in love with him? Do you think Harold was in love with her?
5. Do you feel that Queenie, as a female accountant, was ahead of her time? Why do you think Joyce gave her this specific profession? What do you think it says about her character?
6. Queenie laments, “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.” Do you feel the same way? Would you return painful memories if you could?
7. Queenie’s mother once told her that “there is no such thing as love at first sight. People get together because the time is right.” Do you think this was true for Queenie? Or was it just the opposite when she met Harold? Queenie tells Harold, “I had no child and so I gave my love to you.” How do you feel her profound loss affected her relationship with Harold?
8. Queenie’s destiny is altered the day she accidentally meets Harold’s son, David. What do you think draws David to Queenie? Why does he steal her poems? Do you think it was an act of pure malice and betrayal? Why does he choose to steal her egg whisk, of all things? What, if anything, is he trying to say to her?
9. David says, “I’d rather die than be ordinary.” What do you think he means by that?
10. When David tells Queenie, “I just want someone to see me, Q. See who I really am,” were you surprised by what he had been hiding? Why? Do you think that, in the end, he was “seen” by those who loved him?
11. Queenie created her sea garden “to atone for the terrible wrong I had done to a man I loved.” She writes, “Sometimes you have to do something with your pain because otherwise it will swallow you.” Do you feel she shared any blame in David’s suicide? Do you think she should have carried this burden for twenty years?
12. Were you surprised when you learned the secret of Sister Mary Inconnue?
13. When Harold and Queenie finally meet at the end, Queenie says, “See me, Harold, I said. And you did. You looked and looked and you saw me.” Were you waiting and hoping for them to have this moment together? Did you feel fulfilled by it?
14. How did you feel when you learned that Harold would never actually read Queenie’s confession? Were you satisfied that Queenie found absolution and peace before she died?
15. What did you learn about each of these characters’ journeys that surprised you? Why do you think Joyce used “love song” in the title instead of “confession”?
Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Rachel Joyce
Novelist Rachel Joyce won over American readers even the New York Times' unsentimental Janet Maslin with her 2012 The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a book involving early-stage dementia, a marriage in crisis, and central character confined to a hospice. Harold Fry was picked by Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program and became a bestseller. While Joyce's next novel, Perfect (2013), wasn't as huge a success, its story of two boys and their different paths to adulthood received critical praise.
Now Joyce has returned to the territory of Harold Fry in The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, its title a nod to T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and its protagonist, the woman Fry made his unlikely pilgrimage to visit. Although Queenie Hennessy is ill, she has a story to tell.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for Britain's Man Booker Prize; it has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce is also an award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Joyce lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and their four children.
Joyce and I spoke by telephone in February. The following interview is an edited transcript of our discussion. ?- Bethanne Patrick
The Barnes & Noble Review: How did you decide to write a new book based on Queenie Hennessy, a character who first appears in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?
Rachel Joyce: I had no intention of writing another book in that area. I felt I'd said everything I wanted and needed to say, and I'm not normally someone who would go back to something I'd already done. I really had completely moved on. However, something happened, and there are two versions of it in my family, both of which take place one Sunday in the kitchen. My twelve-year-old daughter recalls that she suddenly said "Mum, I think you should write Queenie's story." I say that I said it. I have no idea which of us is right! Neither of my children has read my books; I feel what is going on with their lives is so important that I would never throw my stuff in their way, but even though they haven't read them, they knew the story and the characters and often ask me about them. When we pass single men walking one of them will say, "Oh look, there's Harold Fry!"
A slightly deeper, murkier reason is that one day, while I was writing another book, a book that has nothing to do with Harold or with Queenie, I suddenly heard Queenie's voice saying ,"Here I am!"
BNR: When did you know you were going full steam ahead with this book?
RJ: The day I heard Queenie's voice felt a bit of a turning point. It's not often in life you think "Oh, that's a good idea!" I really knew, and I think that's because I knew there was something behind it. Looking back, I could see it had been coming for a little while. The subject of Queenie quite often came up, and at least one person at each event would say something along the lines of "I really didn't like the way Queenie was presented at the end." I would wonder if readers were disappointed that Queenie and Harold didn't wind up together and hope that they realized, as they're meant to, that the love story in Harold Fry was the one between Harold and his wife, Maureen.
Yet Queenie is a compelling figure. Harold went all that way to see her. Readers wanted her to keep on living, somehow.
People were also uncomfortable with her disfigured face. It's always slightly uncomfortable for me to tell them where that comes from, because the answer is that this was my own dad's cancer, completely true to the way my dad looked in the last months of his life. The more it came up and the more I gave the answer, the more I felt a bit of me wanting to say, "That wasn't how my dad was all his life! There was a whole lifetime when he was my dad, all the things fathers are. He wasn't just a man with a disfigured face who couldn't speak to me!" I was increasingly bothered by the fact that by implication, Queenie had become a "thing." She's a whole mix, a complex mix. I had to go back and put it straight. Once I'd had that thought . . .
BNR: By the end of Harold Fry readers know that Queenie has some severe limitations as a storyteller. Tell us about how you handled the challenge of a protagonist who is so ill and so limited in her communication.
RJ: Once I'd decided to write Queenie's story, I had to go back to what I'd already written, go back to a set of rules knowing that I didn't have the full scope, but that to break those rules would be a cheat. And, of course, what I'd given myself was a difficult set of problems, trying to write the story of a woman who couldn't talk. I'd cut a whole load of interactions that wouldn't work, but writing in Queenie's voice felt very right. I just had to determine who she was talking to.
For a while, I had the idea that she'd be talking to a volunteer at the hospice. But then I started visiting hospices, which are life-affirming places and very positive, and I began telling one of the volunteers there about something that happened to my dad just before he died. He became convinced that there was somebody in the garden outside his room at home. The man at the hospice said immediately, "Oh yes, this happens all the time!" He told me it seems not to do with the drugs, but that many dying people have an experience of seeing somebody they know, and these experiences are not frightening.
I came away and thought, That's it, I've got the thing I need.
BNR: Can you give us another example of something from your life that wound up in the book?
RJ: Sometimes when you're writing, things happen, and you think that's strange, but it fits. My husband and I were at Paddington Station one day, and I went off to buy some sweets. When I returned, he was talking to a nun carrying a potted myrtle shrub. When she walked away, I said, "What was that all about?" He said, "I saw her, and thought: I've got to ask her where's she going! And now, you have to put her in your book." He was right.
BNR: Yes, so you've not only started out with a dying main character your entire novel is set in a hospice! If that isn't a challenge . . .
RJ: OK, so I've given myself a book to write set in a hospice that's not looking good, is it, for sales? I knew I would have to make sure the reader feels safe in this situation. I mean, I could write a miserable book but what's the point? I wanted to write a really robust book about death, not the least because when I visited hospices I was met with a really robust sense of life. People were kind, people were not lying down and dying. There were all sorts of things going on, art and reading and laughter, a lot of laughter. What I didn't see was people kind of crawling into corners. It seemed important to me that the people I chose to put inside my fictional hospice reflect that reality.
The thing that kind of changed the book round for me was having dinner with three hospice nurses. I expected it to be a quite serious evening, but right from the beginning, it was hilarious. We were howling with laughter, and some of the stories were so outrageous I couldn't even use them; people wouldn't believe me, because the stories were so funny and silly and unexpected. To have a sense of humor in the face of death means that you're acknowledging it's part of life.
BNR: The hospice of your story happens to be run by Roman Catholic nuns. What role does spirituality play in your writing? In your life?
RJ: It's not something that I'm kind of consciously working with it's partly that I'm married to a psychotherapist. We're both in our fifties, and we've chosen not to live in a city but to live in a part of the English countryside, in Gloucestershire, that's pretty exposed. We've both come to a point where we think and talk a lot about what we're doing and what it means. Neither of us has a church background, and we're looking to find the thing that's bigger so for want of a better word, that's spirituality, the thing that is lasting, that we might or might not want to be part of. I don't know that we have any answers, but I do think about those things, and I think about them through my books. I try to understand the things I don't know. For me that feels to be an important thing.
BNR: You spent years as an actor, and also years writing radio scripts. When did you realize that writing novels was in the cards for you?
RJ: I always wrote, even as a child, when I was quiet and difficult and introverted. Some people are brilliant writers at eighteen, and I wasn't one of them. I had to find it, and it took me a long time. I kept trying. Acting has got similar muscles to writing in that you're playing with emotions, but in acting you're taking them somewhere, distilled. As I'm writing now I often think of the huge rehearsal process for being in a play. It's still like that; I don't write something and get in on the first go. I have to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. However, I have found that for me, personally, I'm happier writing than performing.
I still do quite a bit of script writing for the radio. I think it's really important to look after radio drama, which is a big part of British culture. Every day a play goes out on the radio, which is really something and we're in danger of losing it. Radio drama is one of the only forms of storytelling that's free and relies on words and the imagination.
BNR: Why is it so important that radio drama is free?
RJ: It means people can turn it off any time they've invested nothing in it so when they keep listening, you've got something.
Radio scripts require that you keep your listener hooked. You've got to tell a really good story. Radio writers are conscious of structure and hooks and devices; it's a great place to learn how to write. You might construct a beautiful scene, but if it doesn't advance the story in a plausible way, it's getting cut.
I often work now adapting the classics, such as Jane Eyre. You become aware of breaking something into parts, how it moves from one part to the next, and how you keep your reader ready to come back tomorrow.
BNR: What's the biggest influence on your prose?
RJ: I mentioned my husband is a psychotherapist and that we talk a lot. We kind of examine things; it's the way we're built. We like to think about how people move, how they keep going, and how the past influences them. He reads more textbooks and academic things than I do my eyes glaze over when I try but he can't resist reading bits out to me, and I drink them up. Our different viewpoints, mine subjective and his objective, feed each other, and since when I write I'm striving for objectivity, his influence is important. I have to work to take individual moments and see the bigger context, but I live with someone who can give me that for free! I know that increasingly, I rely on him to read what I've written. I don't always agree with him, but an example: When I was writing Harold Fry I included lots more detail in every scene. My husband said, "Cut it," and I was appalled but he was right. It wasn't taking the story anywhere.
BNR: You mentioned that you were in the midst of writing a different book when you stopped to write Queenie Hennessy. Can you tell us about that one?
RJ: First, let me say that writing Queenie's story was a challenge, and a difficult one having written Harold's story, I didn't want to write the same book. However, I feel I was given an opportunity, and I'm glad I took it.
When I was acting, everybody said don't read reviews, the idea being that if you read a horrible review it's difficult to go on stage again, and if you read a brilliant review it's difficult to go on stage again! The thing is, any review means something is no longer innocent, labels objectify. My books are very personal to me, and I can't really tell before, during, or after what the outside response will be. But I know that I hit my own goal of what I wanted to do in this new book. So the only pressure I feel about writing is to keep doing so to the best of my ability.
My next book, the one I interrupted when I heard Queenie's voice, is called The Music Shop, about a man who has a gift for knowing the music you need to hear. He's someone who got started in the '80s, selling vinyl and now he's into a second part of his life. This idea has been kicking around in my head for a very long time. Whenever I go on a book tour I look for the record shops; I recently brought my family with me to New York City for five days and while it was an amazing trip, we thought we'd go and find a record shop but there wasn't one. It strengthened my resolve to write about these places, places where you could listen.
March 16, 2015
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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."
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.
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 .
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.
This is a great companion novel to The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry. I would suggest reading Harold first. Enjoy
Beautiful touching story. Wonderful sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
If it hadn't been for the nuns in this story I don't think I would have finished reading it.
What a joy to read.
“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.
Great followup to harold Fry's trek
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