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.
Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver.
While I was reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I often wondered about who Queenie Hennessy really was and why Harold Fry would make a trek walking hundreds of miles to see her before she dies . Rachel Joyce in this novel has answered all of the questions I had about Queenie and I now know that she was worth every mile that Harold walked and then some .
Queenie is in a hospice spending her last days writing a letter to a man she worked with at a brewery in an English town . At the same time, that man , Harold Fry is on a walking journey to see her before she dies . We learn so much about Queenie in her letter - about her childhood, her days at the university where she studied the classics , her losses , her time working with Harold and how she spent her days after leaving , living in a beach house and tending her beloved sea garden.
There should be nothing light about this story . A dying woman is in hospice writing a letter seeking forgiveness . New patients come and others die . But yet it was delightful to come to know some of Queenie's fellow patients who will make you laugh as well as cry . These characters will steal your heart . The feisty and sometimes potty mouthed Finty , Pearly King , Barbara , Mr . Henderson. Finty was my favorite as she takes to Twitter - #Harold Fry, #Queenie Hennessy, #hospice , #respect .
The story at some point becomes about more than Harold's walk and more than Queenie's letter but about this group of patients and these lovely nuns especially Sister Mary Inconnu who types out Queenie's notes and gives her so much more . They drink to Harold with their nutritional drinks and then the reality of it - Barbara wishes for "one more Christmas ". A particularly moving scene was when Sister Mary Inconnu helps Queenie to feel and smell a peach and taste it when she didn't think she could swallow . Harold's journey on the road and Queenie's journey waiting for Harold becomes theirs as well . "That's it , then, " said Finty . "It's a unanermous vote. From now on , no one dies . We're all waiting for Harold Fry ."
This book is about living and dying with dignity , friendship , love , about regrets and acceptance , and how people have the capacity to make people who don't know them , fall in love with them. I suppose that you could read Queenie's story on its own since it really is not a sequel but has been called a companion piece telling the story of their journeys simultaneously. I would say do yourself a favor and read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in order to fully experience just how meaningful the lives of these far from ordinary people were to those around them .
I'll be thinking about the ending and that last letter to Harold for a long time .
Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Random House and NetGalley.
( I really loved this book and while reading it I reread parts The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and after doing so decided that it was a 5 star book instead of 4 as I had originally rated it . I have changed my rating.)
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Harold Fry #2) by Rachel Joyce
Having listened to the first book in the Harold Fry series, I was glad I could immediately dig into the this audiobook. This book is a companion to the first book, with most of it running parallel to Harold Fry's pilgrimage. It fills in gaps we didn't even know needed filling in. While Harold Fry's pilgrimage made me anxious and so worried for him, Queenie's story left me feeling good about things we can't truly understand.
Queenie is at her end, she's in a hospice, and she's had so much removed from her face/head/neck that if they removed any more her head would fall off. I'm paraphrasing what she tells us but it's that bad. Even so, Queenie has one more thing she needs to do and that is to confess and apologize to Harold Fry. We travel back in time via Queenie's memories to find out how she came to meet Harold Fry. He liked to tell the story of their first meeting but he always got it wrong. Such is the world of Queenie and Harold Fry. If only more had been said and more had been done, would things have turned out differently?
I loved the nun, nurses, and volunteers in this hospice. Maybe there were some rotten apples but we don't meet them. Queenie is surrounded by those who care for her and who love her. When she arrives we meet her other hospice companions and they add such heart to the story. We also have to see the hearse take them away when their time is over. For as sad as Harold's pilgrimage made me at times, I'm so surprised by how much I enjoyed Queenie's own, very different journey. There is a similarity between the journeys though. Both Harold and Queenie are thinking of each other the entire way and they are also learning to see the past in a different light.
If you have the opportunity, experience these two books one after the other. That way you can compare events in one story with events in the other story. These two books belong together and I'm glad I went on these journeys with Harold and Queenie.
In “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”, Harold believes that if he walks from his home on the South coast of England to where Queenie Hennessy is in a hospice on the North coast of England, he will be able to save her. And there is a reason he wants to save her.
In “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy”, Queenie is on her own pilgrimage while in the hospice. She is reviewing her life, and particularly the years since she met Harold Fry at work (he says in the stationary cabinet, while she says it was in the canteen). For twenty-four years Queenie has quietly and secretly loved Harold and she is intent on writing out her story in a long letter to him. There are parts of her story she feels compelled to tell Harold about.
Queenie is offered assistance in her mission by Sister Mary Inconnue. Queenie can no longer speak as they had to remove part of her throat and tongue in their effort to save her life from cancer. So Queenie writes out her story in shorthand and Sister Mary Inconnue transcribes the pages, faithfully typing them out nearly every day.
This story, Queenie’s story, is distressing and uplifting; it is poignant and happy. There is mourning and there is laughter. The Sisters and volunteers in the hospice embrace all the patients as family, enjoying their small victories and sharing their sorrows. Queenie writes about this as well. She wants to write down everything so when Harold reads it, he can experience the context of her journey as well.
When news of Harold Fry’s pilgrimage spreads throughout the hospice, so does a new atmosphere of hope. A banner is constructed and a special corner set up for Harold Fry’s postcards and to pin up any news of his pilgrimage. It becomes a great occasion any time a postcard arrives and everyone becomes part of the excitement.
In between times, Queenie writes and writes some more. Even when she is fatigued and her hand is sore, she continues to write. Her story unfolds like memories do: sometimes 24 years ago, sometimes 4 years ago, and sometimes even further than 24 years ago. Queenie is writing a very long letter; she is also composing a love song. Queenie also knows that she will not be finished until she has written Harold with all the secrets she has harbored for years. Queenie burns for Harold’s forgiveness for one secret in particular.
This book is beautifully written and the story is engaging from the first page. There are some tearful moments while reading Queenie’s journey through her life, yet nothing had prepared me for the end. When it was over tears were raining down my cheeks, wetly blending wonder and sadness together.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and to receive the full impact of the beautiful story of Harold Fry and Queenie Hennessy, I strongly recommend they be read in order.
“We write ourselves certain parts and then keep playing them as if we have no choice. But a tardy person can become a punctual one, if she chooses. You don’t have to keep being the thing you have become. It is never too late.”
I started this book immediately after finishing The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This novel focuses on Miss Queenie Hennessy’s final days at St. Bernadine’s Hospice as she waits for Harold Fry to complete his walk from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed to visit her. Queenie, though terminally ill, begins to write a final letter to Harold. With Sister Mary Inconnu typing out whatever she can write down, she manages to chronicle the story of her life highlighting and sharing memories from her early childhood, her days in Kingsbridge working in the brewery where she strikes a friendship with Harold and unbeknownst to Harold, interacts with his son David, and her days after leaving. As we get to know more about Queenie, we also learn about her true feelings for Harold and the secrets she has carried for decades. Just as Harold’s walk inspired reflection and insight, Queenie’s writing proves to be emotionally cathartic for her.
The narrative shifts back and forth between Queenie’s past and the present day where we get to meet the nurses and caregivers in the hospice and Queenie’s fellow residents all of whom are fascinated with Harold Fry’s pilgrimage and keep track of his progress.
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy bu Rachel Joyce is a beautiful novel touching upon themes of love, sacrifice, friendship, loss, grief and hope. The author emphasizes how important kindness and forgiveness are in finding peace within oneself. I enjoyed this novel even more than I did the first book in the series. I loved how Queenie’s perspectives gave us a vivid picture of who Queenie is as a person but also added so much more depth to Harold's story as well. I loved the characters in the hospice and though there are some very sad moments in the story, I think the author does a wonderful job of depicting life in hospice and how individuals approach their final days with support from one another and their caregivers. With wisdom, humor and insight author Rachel Joyce takes us on an emotional journey with memorable characters that will keep you thinking long after you have finished the book.
“Because if you picture other people like you, you will no longer be alone. And when you share, you see that your own sorrow is not so big or special. You are only another person feeling sad, and soon it will pass and you will be another person, feeling happy. It takes the sting out of life, I find, when you realize you are not alone.”
I actually enjoyed this even more than The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. At first I was not so sure because Queenie came across as a very insipid and needy person and I wondered how she was going to sustain a whole book. But then the story moved into the hospice and up popped all these marvellous characters. I ended up enjoying the parts of the story about the hospice much more than the parts relating to her past life and Harold Fry. The author achieved a remarkable balance between happy and sad and it was so good to see Queenie finally realise her life had not been so bad after all. The end ties in very neatly with the ending of its companion volume. Very well done indeed and I will certainly read more books by Rachel Joyce.
Queenie knows Harold is on his way to visit her, and she realizes she must confront the past she quietly left behind twenty years ago.
Putting pen to paper, once again, she begins writing a lengthy letter to Harold. She must tell him everything. All her long-held secrets, all her emotions, and reasons why she disappeared...
WOW! This is a very emotional story and I felt Queenie's heart quicken as Harold's walk brings him closer and closer to her!
Her story takes on an intensity and offers keen insight into her cherished friendship with Harold. She writes about the many layers of her life, her choices, and so much more. She is a memorable and remarkable character whose story gives the reader a sharper perception of Harold's character in the process of telling her own story.
The audiobook narrator Celia Imrie does an exemplary job as the voice of Queenie. When I hear Queenie's voice it brings a smile to my face and a sadness to my heart as it immediately draws me in and sounds so authentic. Although there are multiple characters and voices, Queenie's voice is the one that dominates this story.
'Queenie's Love Song' is as beautiful as it is poignant with several surprises and an ending I didn't expect, so be sure to have the tissue box handy! I loved listening to her heartfelt story and Harold's story in Book #1, but I admit, 'Queenie's Love Song' is my favorite and I highly recommend!
I'll be reading Book #3 in this series soon, Maureen due to publish 2/7/23.
Have you ever had the unfortunate luck to be stuck next to a person at a party who is incapable of telling a straightforward story? They go off on tangents, include every inconsequential detail, and prattle on and on…and on and on….forever? You pretend to look interested as your eyes glaze over and you search for an escape route before you give in to the urge to scream, “just get to the damn point!”?
That is this book.
I’m an empathetic/sympathetic reader but this didn’t do anything but elicit eye rolls from me.
I’m a nurse, and was a hospice volunteer for many years, plus both my parents passed away in hospice. Did I buy into any of the hospice scenes? Nope! There is no “life and joy” in hospice.
I didn’t find Queenie pining away for decades over a married man poignant or sad, and her relationship with douchebag David was borderline creepy. Plus, WHY??? I didn’t get her obsession with either of them. Queenie comes off as an unlikable pathetic shell of a person.
The “surprise” ending? Disappointing!
I read Harold Fry in 2012 and thought I’d catch up with Queenie’s story before reading #3, but I’ll pass on that one too.
As much as I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I liked this one even more. Both of these books contain the stories of ordinary lives, made extraordinary because of the actions of the characters to connect with others. Harold's story was his walking 600 miles to see Queenie before she died; Queenie's story was about her wait for him in the hospice, to stay alive until he arrived. Along the way, we get both their histories.
Waiting with Queenie are the other dying patients at the hospice and the gentle nuns who care for them. Harold's postcards sent from the road give them all a small measure of hope, that they too can hang on to await his arrival. Where we get Harold's story from his thoughts and encounters along the road, Queenie relates her history in a letter to Harold, since she can no longer speak because of her tumor. We know from the first book that Harold gets to Queenie just before she dies, but there is a surprising twist at the end regarding her letter.
This was a wonderful book with a lot of everyday wisdom that slips up on you as you read, like this passage: "It has been everywhere, my happiness - when my mother sang for me to dance, when my father took my hand to keep me safe - but it was such a small, plain thing that I mistook it for something ordinary and failed to see. We expect our happiness to come with bells and whistles, but it doesn't."
If you read Harold Fry, you owe it to yourself to finish the journey with Queenie. Oh, and a special note to Rachel Joyce - I want Finty to have her own book.
"Dear Harold, This may come to you as some surprise. I know it is a long time since we last met, but recently I have been thinking about the past. Last year I had an operation on a tumour, but the cancer has spread and there is nothing left to be done. I still think of you with fondness."
If you loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, as I undoubtedly did, then this is the companion book, to be read just as soon as you have put that book down and composed yourself. That said, it took me three months after reading the first book to get to this, even though it was blowing me kisses from a crammed bookshelf, and after that it's taken a further four months to write this review!
Just like its platonic companion, this is a heartwarming tale of selfless devotion and the unsung magnanimity of humankind. Queenie Hennessy is a woman in love who has waited in the wings without complaint.
As with The Unlikely Pilgrimage, Queenie's story will make you smile, will uplift you, and will almost certainly move you to tears.
4+ stars I listened to the audiobook.. great narration!!
As Harold makes his 600 mile long walk to see Queenie as she lies in a Catholic hospice with the end stages of cancer, Queenie, with the help of a nun, writes her story in a letter to give to Harold after he arrives. Harold is her old married coworker and friend that she hasn’t seen in twenty years. This is Queenies voice telling Harold her true feelings for him, her friendship with his son. and about her life since the last time she saw him 20 yrs ago. A sad story indeed, filled with loss and regret but also some laughs. I will not forget Queenie, a quiet dignified lady. Amazing ending!
It is often in times of sorrow, that we see how good humanity can be.
This sad but elegant story brought us the lady Queenie, whose unrequited love for Harold Fry is the main topic. She is a stalwart lady who holds her secrets close to her heart and when she is dying in a hospice full of sick people, she introduces us to some amazing people, including Harold's son, David.
We learn of her journey through life, how times spent with Harold were her cherished times, how she never could tell Harold the truth about so many things and many times in my head I kept on saying "Please Queenie, tell Harold." We learn of her allegiance to Harold's deeply troubled son, David, another secret kept from Harold.
Grief and tragedy follow these lives as it always does, but there was always the memories that one clings to of times well spent, of love and its pain.
Through Harold's journey from one end of England to the other, to see Queenie with the thought he will be the one to save her, he gives purpose for living not only to Queenie, but to many of the hospice's residences.
This beautifully told story brought many thoughts of one's mortality and how life can survive with just a bit of purpose. The characters are totally endearing, brash, quiet, and so reflective of the life they are about to leave. I am not the one to cry easily, but this story brought many times those elusive tears to my eyes.
All of them wait for the future, with Harold holding the key to their staying alive. I was very touched by this story, the selfishness of people, the secrets we hold within our hearts, and the ability to always find hope from a life that soon will be taken from them. Now onto Maureen, Harold's wife.
EXCERPT: 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.
“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.
THE BLURB: 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.
MY THOUGHTS: I didn't want this book to end......I quite fell in love with Miss Queenie Hennessey and the other residents of the hospice.
This book moved me to tears, made me laugh, made me think about me relationship with my mother, with my grandmothers, with my sons.
It made me remember how selfish we are as young adults, so uncertain in ourselves, but so certain that we know so much more than our parents.
It brought back memories, both good and painful. This delightful book is a journey in itself.
Queenie has had to move into the hospice to die - she is removed from her beloved house by the sea and her sea garden, her garden of tribute to those she has loved, her garden of memories. Faced by her imminent death, she writes to Harold Fry, her unrequited love, and he sets out to walk the length of England to be with her. Scared that she will not live long enough to see him, she takes up the challenge when a new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything.
His unlikely pilgrimage captivates the other hospice residents, with whom Queenie - who has kept herself apart since her arrival - slowly makes friends.
I will be seeking out Rachel Joyce's other works. An unreserved recommendation from me.
I own my copy of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the 'about' page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is the second in the Harold Fry trilogy. I just now listened to it because Rachel Joyce has written the third book in the series. Queenie had an unrequited love for Harold Fry the entire time they worked together at the brewery. She left the brewery decades ago and moved to the other end of England. Now, she is dying of cancer. When Harold learns, he begins walking the length of England to see her. The story of that walk encompassed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Now, we hear from Queenie, as she awaits Harold’s arrival at her hospice. Unable to talk, she writes out her story, basically a confession of the secrets she hid years ago. The story is melancholy, as you would expect of a book that takes place in a hospice, but filled with bright bits of hope and love. It’s a character study, not just of Queenie, but Harold’s son David, also her fellow patients and the volunteer nuns at the hospice. It’s a poignant story and death is a frequent visitor. Queenie lived life on her own terms. Not a life that worked out as she wanted but still one filled with meaning and the beauty of her sea garden. The story is about forgiveness, mostly of ourselves, and making amends, or “reparations” as Joyce calls them. The ending blew me away and I’m still a bit in shock. Celia Imrie did a good job as the narrator. And a special thanks to Random House audio for including the Author’s Note. Too many audio publishers neglect the AN and it’s always a mistake.
4★ “After all, I’m at one end of England and you’re at the other. The wind has a softness in the south, but up here it’s so wild it can chuck you off your feet. There’s a reason for this distance, Harold. I had to get as far from you as I could bear.”
So that’s why. That explains why The Unlikely… covered such a lot of territory, with Harold walking from the tippy-toe of England up to its northernmost town, Berwick-upon-Tweed, almost on the Scottish border. His book describes Harold’s thoughts and memories and the conclusions he comes to as he meets different people who help him along the way.
Here, we have Queenie’s story in the form of notes she’s devising to be sent to Harold, describing her life and the association she had with him that he never knew about. She begins a subject and then moves into reminiscences going back to her childhood, her youth, her very young marriage. About her parents, she says:
“I’m not saying it was an unhappy marriage, only that it had become a well-worn one, like an old coat you stop looking after. There were holes during that time. There were thin patches.”
Through her thoughts, we are introduced to the other residents, some very colourful and funny, some stubbornly grouchy.
“He doesn’t talk so much as growl. The first time I heard him, I mistook him for a tractor.”
The nuns are kind and helpful, especially Sister Lucy, who attends to Queenie with care. Between reminiscences, she reminds us of her condition, which is a cancer that has destroyed much of her jaw and her speech.
“This morning I asked Sister Lucy if I could borrow a dictionary and a thesaurus. She fetched Pictionary and a throat lozenge. ‘Also a glass of water,’ she said helpfully.” Her favourite, she tells us, is Sister Mary Inconnu, for whom she is scribbling notes to be typed up, scribbling so much that her hand is stiff and sore. The sisters look after her pain.
“After my disturbed night, I slept until midday. When I woke, I had a visitor. She had a grapefruit on her head. She’d also brought her horse. The two of them left only when Sister Mary Inconnu arrived with her typewriter. I wrote for her that I’d had strange guests who belonged to a circus, not a hospice, and she smiled. ‘People pay good money for drugs like yours.’ ”
The nuns are collecting Harold’s postcards and pinning them onto a map of England, along with whatever articles they find about his journey. His walk has capture the imagination of the public, and the nursing home residents are calculating his timetable. It’s like looking forward to Christmas.
That is ‘now’, from the vantage point of Queenie’s bed, but most of the story is about ‘then’. She wants to tell Harold how she came to work in accounts at the brewery where he worked and why he was appointed to be her driver her when she went to inspect the books at all the pubs.
Their boss was dreadful and didn’t want to hire her in the first place. She was determined and sat outside his door, waiting all day for an interview.
“ ‘Do you like sex and travel, Miss Hennessy?’ At last. An interview, albeit unconventional. I blushed, but I wasn’t going to be bullied. I do, actually’”
‘Then f**k off.’ The door slammed.
I asked the secretary if her boss liked women, and she said he did, but mainly in the back of his car.”
These are just sidelights. The main story of course, not only fills in the gaps readers were left wondering about from Harold’s story, but also gives a complete picture of this unusual, troubled woman. She wants to give Harold (and Maureen) some peace by letting them know what a secret, powerful connection she had with them.
I enjoyed the story, far-fetched though it does become, and it was interesting to see different sides of Harold and Maureen as well.
Not a Harold Fry prequel or sequel but a parallel story, told in Queenie’s first-person narration as an extended deathbed letter as she waits for Harold to arrive. The humor-tinged hardship of hospice life alternates with touching vignettes from her past. Better than the original – more inventive, allusive and intimate.
When I saw Joyce speak at the 2014 Hungerford Literary Festival, she mentioned that she wrote Harold Fry and Queenie Hennessy simultaneously, emphasizing the idea that these two characters are journeying side by side. In fact, Joyce revealed that there are plot crossovers between the novels. For instance, towards the end of his walk Harold has to tape his yachting shoes onto his feet; to finish writing her letter, Queenie asks a nun to tape her pencil into her grip.
“My life has been small, it has been nothing to speak of. But the past is still inside me, Harold. I have never let it go.” It is a privilege to hear Queenie’s voice here.
There will be people who really like this. Unfortunately, I am not one. I found this novel comparable to one by Nicholas Sparks and, yet, he is extremely popular. I found it to be so-so. The characters were cut-out paper dolls and the story was just so slow and plodding. For people who like this genre, I am sure it will be a good read.
This is a companion book to the "Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and tells the story of Miss Queenie, the woman Harold was on the journey to see. Queenie is in a hospice run by nun dying from a tumor in her throat area. She can no longer talk and writes her story in shorthand that was transcribed by a nun. She wants to give it to Harold when he arrives to explain herself to him. The story meanders between her times with Harold, her "exile" and her current circumstances. When I say meander, I mean meander. I was silently screaming to myself, "Just get on with it".
I don't want to go on and on but this was just not my cup of tea.
This is my last read of 2015 While Harold Fry is walking through England and Queenie is trying to hold on and wait till he arrives before she dies, she writes him a letter confessing secrets hidden for twenty years. I liked reading Queenie’s story and about her unrequited love for Harold. I liked the interaction between her and David, Harold’s son, though I don’t think I’d have been as generous as she was. I loved reading about her sea garden. The writing is beautiful, especially the description of the Northumberland Coast ‘I sat with my suitcase, and while I ate the bread and drank the water I gazed out over the bay. The sun was high and threw stars at the sea. The air shimmered with heat, like a veil of water.’ I was right there with Queenie. This is a book about love and loss, living and dying. I loved this, ‘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.’ And also, ‘sometimes you cannot clear the past completely. You must live alongside your sorrow.’ So I enjoyed the writing, except for the intrusive f word that popped up at times. Some of the people in the hospice were certainly characters and the nuns caring for them lovely. But the main impression I was left with after reading this book is, I hope and pray I never have to go into a nursing home or a hospice. It sounds like my idea of hell.
Returning to the work of Rachel Joyce, I chose the companion to her well-written The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In this piece, Joyce provides the reader with the other side of the story, in which Queenie Hennessy tells her tale of meeting and connecting with Harold, while sharing some secrets she has never revealed over the years.
Having penned a note to Harold Fry from her hospice, Queenie Hennessy hopes that the news of her cancer and likely terminal diagnosis will be met with some understanding. It has been two decades since Queenie has seen Harold, but she feels that the news must be passed along. Soon thereafter, Queenie decides to write a second, much more thorough, letter to Harold, which will likely explain a great deal that she has been holding back.
As Queenie begins her writing, she provides much of the backstory relating to how she came to work at the brewery alongside Harold those many years ago. The reader is able to obtain a more thorough understanding of the chance encounter—albeit not entirely agreed upon by Queenie and Harold—as well as some of the blossoming sentiments Queenie developed but never shared. As the narrative continues, Queenie’s connection to Harold grows stronger, at times during their workplace interactions, but also when David Fry, Harold’s son, inadvertently meets her around town. The Queenie-David friendship adds a deeper connection to Harold, though Queenie never shares this with the object of her affection.
As news of Harold’s pilgrimage to see Queenie becomes known, talk of this cross-country adventure has the hospice abuzz. Between her entries to Harold, Queenie interacts with others and shares some heartfelt moments with a few residents. However, much like the unrequited love she has for Harold, the death of others around her leaves Queenie in a state of sorrow. She knows that Harold is coming, though her own life hangs in the balance. She wants a clean slate before she passes, but debates how much she wants Harold to know while she is still of this earth.
With a great deal of dramatic build-up in all areas of the narrative, Rachel Joyce does a masterful job at keeping the reader curious about how things will come together, or fall apart, as Harold Fry’s pilgrimage reaches its climactic conclusion. Fans of the first novel know what’s to come, though only through the eyes of a tired Harold. This is Queenie’s story, and what a tale it is. Highly recommended to those who enjoyed the first novel, as well as the reader who finds joy in something that plucks the heart strings.
It was a strong recommendation by a dear friend that had me attempt this emotional duology. I was quite taken with the first novel, though left that reading with many questions. Rachel Joyce appears to have read my mind as she penned this second one, filling in all the gaps while keeping the reader entertained throughout.
The reader only really got a glimpse of Queenie in the first novel, as Harold was somewhat clueless about her true intentions. However, the focus on Madam Hennessy in this piece is both refreshing and essential to put all the pieces together. Queenie is quite a complex woman, full of white lies and causal deceit, though never a malicious being. Her ability to love is apparent throughout, as her compassion creates a tether to Harold, though never blurring the workplace-personal lines. Queenie’s admissions in her letter to Harold are highly important to the larger narrative, though it is only one part of many that will impact the reader.
The cast of secondary characters helps to develop the deeper meaning of this book. From the Harold Fry that was missing in the first novel to the handful of hospice residents with their own stories and who help Queenie prepare for the arrival of the wandering pilgrim. Perhaps the most interesting secondary character is David Fry, a young man who has so much potential, though is lost to many. Queenie breathes much life into him and their connection is almost able to overtake that of Queenie and Harold. Readers who are familiar with the first novel will want to pay close attention to this subplot, as it is highly important and offers a quasi surrogate parent/child interaction.
Rachel Joyce has a special writing gift in this duology, using a vignette style that offers readers bite-sized chapters to better understand the narrative progress. The story is itself a pilgrimage of emotional growth and death, in a form. Joyce has a style that is easy to understand, yet also dripping with sentiment, which becomes apparent for those who read both novels. I had not expected to be as moved by this duology as I was, though I cannot thank my friend enough for her recommendation. It speak volumes to me that few other readers could understand. Perhaps I am a Queenie Hennessy all my own in this regard.
Kudos, Madam Joyce, for another great piece. I hope others take as much away from this piece as I did. I’ll be sure to look for more of your work soon.
What a wonderful companion piece to Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The timing of this novel is parallel to that earlier work and it tells of what is happening while Harold walks, the reason he walks, the present life of Queenie and their interlacing history.
It would be easy to say too much of the story, such as it is, and I do not want to do that. Those who have read of Harold know that Queenie is dying, but here we learn of her living and of her life when she knew Harold and after and now in the Hospice. There were moments in this story that just spoke so strongly to me. What might seem like obvious truisms to some, were very meaningful to me.
You don't get to a place by constantly moving, even if your journey is only one of sitting still and waiting. Every once in a while you have to stop in your tracks and admire the view, a small cloud and tree outside your window. You have to see what you did not see before. And then you sleep. (loc 1385)
As one who has spent more time sitting than moving in recent months, this is so relate-able for me. Joyce has captured this so well. And the following moment of extreme restlessness, whether from physical or emotional discomfort--also is captured so well, so simply.
I can't sleep. I lie still and stillness is too much and I have to get up. But when I am up, that is not right either, Nothing is the thing I am hunting for. (loc 3668)
Rachel Joyce has given us a wonderful woman in Queenie Hennessy, a woman with heart and soul, a woman full of memory. For that, I thank her.
Very highly recommended.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Wow! This book really tugs at your heartstrings!! I highly recommend you read the book “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” BEFORE reading this. I read that book 8 months ago and I now wished I had re-read it before this one to refresh myself with the story. I preferred the first story over this one and I found myself skimming pages to get through this one. Other than that, this author really knows how to tell a great love story!! 💕 ❤️ 💗
After reading thousands of books in my lifetime, I just finished one of most profoundly written and memorable books ever.
Perhaps I should have given more thought to this review before writing it, but I had no idea how emotionally involved I had become with each of the characters in this story, until I was literally sobbing after closing the pages of this book.
I read Ms. Joyce's "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry," and immediately ordered a copy of "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy."
So many books...as they say, but I definitely want to re-read these two books again. Thank you Ms. Joyce for sharing your remarkable talent with the world.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Five+ stars.
“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.
Miss Queenie Hennessy had lived for twenty years at her little seaside cottage since she had left Kingsbridge where Harold Fry lived. Twenty years while she tended her beloved sea garden and thought daily of Harold and her deep love for him. But Harold was married to Maureen, so Queenie’s love had been one sided; quiet and unattainable.
But when Queenie’s body was slowly taken over by cancer and she was no longer able to care for herself, she entered the nearby hospice where she would spend the remainder of her life, cared for by the kind and devoted nuns of St Bernadine’s. Unable to speak, she had her notebook and pencil with her always. As she deteriorated, she decided to write a short letter to Harold to let him know she was dying; but when she received a reply from him stating he was walking to her and she was to wait, she and the rest of the residents were astounded.
Sister Mary Inconnue, a French nun, gently suggested to Queenie that she write a letter to Harold; one which he would read when he arrived at the hospice, and one in which Queenie would tell all the secrets that she felt she had withheld from Harold – confessing was good for the soul Sister Mary told her. So Queenie wrote; she wrote pages and pages in her notebook while she and the other residents waited; sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently for Harold…
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is a sweet, at times laugh aloud funny novel which is the parallel book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. As Queenie writes her thoughts in her notebook, we learn the depth of her feeling for Harold; the story of her years working with him, and of her regrets. But I was a little disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected – certainly as much as friends have; I felt it was drawn out and tedious in places. I certainly enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry more, but would still recommend this one to others.
With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy to read and review.
This companion book to "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" was an excellent read. When I read the first book, I often wanted to hear more from Queenie's point of view. This one gives us her whole backstory and then it was great to read her side of things as Harold makes his way walking toward her.
It was really good to read these back-to-back so I'm glad I had the chance to do that, I think I appreciate both of them more this way. I knew what would happen to Queenie but somehow, I was hoping that this one would have a different outcome as I grew very fond of her!
I think Rachel Joyce is an excellent writer and I will definitely read her future books.
Thanks for sharing the journey buddy reading these Marilyn!
This is the sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry. In the first book Harold is trekking cross country to visit Queenie Hennesey a former coworker in an English brewery after she sends him a letter from a hospice bidding him farewell. In this one, we get the story from Queenie's side learning how she comes to write both the letter that starts his journey, and a confessional letter about her life to give to him as she awaits his arrival. Both stories are full of life's lessons, happy and sad, these being elderly folks who are looking back on their lives. Queenie's story is probably the more poignant as she's been secretly in love with Harold (a married man) her entire adult life. These two books have made Rachel Joyce a very popular author. I recommend reading them in close proximity ( which darn it, I failed to do) for maximum enjoyment !! 3.5 stars
I may be in a minority, in that I actually enjoyed this companion-piece to HAROLD FRY more than the original - perhaps because I was expecting less. Queenie's voice is well-pitched and sure; and the banality of her environment throws her rich inner life into sharp relief. There's something about this book that reminds me of some of Jane Gardam's work, especially THE QUEEN OF THE TAMBOURINE, which I love. It's touching, but not saccharine; simple, but deceptive; crammed with authentic details.
I cannot believe I'm admitting this, but I do believe that I enjoyed this sequel much more than "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye " and I gave that a four star. Queenie and the other characters at the palliative care center reeled me in and just wouldn't allow me to walk away from them.
I really don't want to give anything away. Simply I must say that this book and its predecessor are absolutely wonderful reads.
Thank you so much to Random House and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy. I had won a copy of Joyce's parallel book -- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry -- through Goodreads before it came out in 2012. I knew nothing about Joyce or her book, but was absolutely delighted by the quirky heart felt story. And I enjoyed Joyce's new book just as much but for different reasons. The stories are very much connected and I have trouble imagining reading Queenie's story without having first read Harold's. But in many ways, the books are oddly different thematically. Queenie's story is told in the form of a long letter to Harold in which she slowly confesses the source of 20 years of feeling guilty for Harold's misfortune. The letter is written while Queenie is in a palliative care hospital dying of cancer as Harold makes his unlikely pilgrimage toward her. Queenie's "confession" is very readable, but for me by far the best parts of the books were the one's in which Queenie depicts her life in the hospital. It's an oddly unmelodramatic -- yet sad and empathetic -- view of dying amongst a group of people who all know their deaths are imminent. Joyce also gives Queenie the odd brilliant insight. For example, Queenie describes her parents' relationship as an old coat that her mother keeps meaning to throw out and that her father keeps meaning to mend. Bottom line: if you can, read Joyce's books back to back starting with Harold's story, but don't be too fussed about thematic differences. Enjoy the writing and feel of both books.
This is a companion read to the original book "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry". I was even more touched by this second book that answered a lot of questions raised by the first book. To offer a brief summation, Harold Fry is a retiree who receives a letter from a hospice by a woman he worked with twenty years ago. He hasn't heard from her in all this time, but she just wants to tell him that she is dying and is in hospice. He is so stunned and obviously moved by this that he immediately writes a brief reply and walks out of his house to mail it. But, he winds up continuing walking the 600 miles on foot to see her in person. It becomes a pilgrimage of sorts, for why would any sane person do this when they could just jump in a car and be there within hours? There are many unanswered questions in the first book about this mysterious lady who worked with Harry as an accountant at the brewery decades ago. There is some obvious attachment and history, but the book barely touches the surface.
This book from the point of view of Queenie Hennessy answers everything, and it is a very emotional journey/confession. The book also confronts and opens up the inner environment of a hospice setting, and shows that beauty, joy and profundity can be found there. The hospice was staffed by nuns, and their compassion, gentleness and wisdom was a revelation. While I enjoyed the first book in the series, this perspective was a glistening prism into their special relationship. I am eager to continue this journey with the third installment from Harry's wife's viewpoint, "Maureen".