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The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: A Novel Hardcover – March 3, 2015
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“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
About 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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I have understood her questions, that remained unanswered.
She was a bright light in the day room of the Hospice.
Everyday life, waiting for the next journey.
Beautifully written. Each character became a friend.
When a new-to-the-scene novelist produces a big hit, as was the case for the Brit Rachel Joyce in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry a few years back, you can expect that her agent and her publisher will have been pushing her for yet another. So when I received my copy of The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy, I put aside all else on my large stack of books-yet-to-be-read and dove into the latest Rachel Joyce.
What? This novel is written in first person by the woman dying of cancer in a Catholic hospice at the top of England? How could she write this? Then suddenly—and it only take a few pages—the author has created a completely believable scenario involving one of the nurses—all of them Catholic nuns. So as Harold Fry is walking in his yachting shoes all the way from the very bottom of England to the edge of Scotland to see her where she is dying of cancer (that’s the geography of Harold Fry’s story), Queenie is telling a parallel story that involves the two of them. At one point she writes this: “We write ourselves certain parts and then keep playing them as if we have no choice.” But then adds, “You don’t have to keep being the thing you have become. It is never too late.” She will stay put instead of walking away from difficulties. Of course she has no choice. She is, after all, dying of cancer.
I have a rather jaded view of first-person-account novels, probably because there are some “gold standards” out there such as J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, and most assuredly Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. An author has to create verisimilitude for the first person narrator including, of course, how the narrator has learned to write in the voice of that novel.
And Rachel Joyce does just that.
This novel isn’t a sequel to Harold Fry’s story. It couldn’t be for obvious reasons (obvious that is to anyone who has read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry). It’s a parallel story with a fascinating cast of characters. So while Harold’s story involves a wealth of English “types” he meets along the way, Queenie’s involves the nuns and the patients, a wonderful array of them. And of course there are the ambulances arriving—and the undertakers as well.
If you read the first novel and loved it as much as I did, then do treat yourself to Queenie’s love letter. You won’t regret it.
The characters surrounding her, both past and present, real and imaginary, are vivid, living, compelling. They force her to continue her love story even when she would rather return in her mind to her pleasant sea garden on her lonely stretch of shore. It was the only place she had really lived, but while there, still had hidden her truths under the driftwood and the seaweed. The shell chimes told the story, but no ears could interpret it. Just as her story in her own hand could be interpreted only through the love which drove her to write it all down.
Queenie Hennessey at the end of her life looked back to discover how to truly live, truly love, truly to be absolved of a guilt she never needed to carry. Harold never completed his journey as the man of integrity Queenie imagined him to be. But she would have been pleased to know his journey returned love to his life, easing the pain she believed she had caused. Neither they nor Maureen, Harold's wife, would have achieved peace without having faced the painful truths they had hidden deep inside.
There are truth's spoken by Queenie's counselor, Sister Mary I., that I will return to again and again in my life, words that helped Queenie find her hidden truths, live life and die joyfully, truly wisdom to cherish.