The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

“It’s all very well for a man to set out of his front door and tell his friend to wait while he walks the length of England. It’s an entirely different kettle of fish when you are the woman at the other end.”

I’m not sure if I ever blogged about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, the rather wonderful story of a man who walks the length of England to visit an old friend who is dying. If I didn’t then I should have done, because Harold Fry’s story is intelligent and inspiring, moving and amusing and filled with a sense of hope. I loved it a whole lot and I have not a single qualm about telling everybody in the world to go read it.

I mention it now because I just finished Rachel Joyce’s latest novel.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey is a companion piece to Harold and tells the story from the other side.

Queenie Hennessey is in a hospice when she gets a letter from an old friend, Harold Fry. He’s coming to see her, he says, and he asks her to wait. Queenie doesn’t think she can wait, she is in the hospice to die after all, but Sister Mary Inconnue, gives her a reason to hang on; as she waits for Harold to walk from South Devon to the North East, with Sister Mary Inconnue’s help, Queenie begins to write to him.

This book is unbearably sad at times and it broke my heart into millions of tiny little pieces, but, at the same time it radiates that same sense of hope that I found when I was reading Harold.
It’s injected with a sense of humour that makes you huff out a laugh as your chest tightens, makes you smile as your eyes fill with tears and whilst the ending is (obviously) anything but happy, there’s a sense of satisfaction that Queenie’s life has gone full circle. The whole book from start to finish is nothing if not bittersweet: Queenie’s story; her memories of Harold; the other characters in the hospice with their own heartbreaking stories that bring a little colour to Queenie’s quiet life, it’s all so very very lovely and it all hurts, more and more as the book goes on. This book left my chest tight and my heart in my throat but I am so pleased that I got to know Queenie Hennessey.