The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
By Rachel Joyce
Published by Doubleday/Transworld
7th October, 2014
I have been counting down the days till this book was released for review, having thoroughly enjoyed "The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry". Harold never actually told us a great deal about Queenie, despite his epic walk along the length of England to visit her at the hospice. This isn't a sequel but rather a look at life from Queenie's perspective and we find out how she felt about her life when she was at the very end of it and looking back on the events, both good and bad, which took place.
It sounds bleak and depressing, but it truly isn't. There are some very sad parts but the nuns, helpers and other patients in the hospice are real and engaging characters. At the hospice, Queenie is helped to squeeze as much into - and out of - her last weeks as humanly possible.
Due to the ravages of her illness, Queenie's speech is no longer clear, so she writes her letters in shorthand so that the resourceful and kind Sister Mary Inconnue can transcribe and type them for Harold to read, whether or not he manages to arrive before her imminent death. From the sad circumstances surrounding her move down to Devon in the first place, her struggle to find a job and her respect and undeclared yet passionate love for Harold, Queenie embarks on a heroic and epic journey of discovery of her very own, without leaving the confines of the hospice, a place where she is bravely facing death and learning how to live life to its fullest.
Slowly, we learn the reason why she chose to exile herself to a Northern coast, where she laboriously creates a sea garden at her beach house in expiation of what she perceived as her wrongdoing; eventually she manages to confess a horrifying truth which she has concealed for so many years.......
This is a superb and memorable book, and a fitting companion to "The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry".