Cover image for The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy : a novel
The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy : a novel
Joyce, Rachel.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2014]
Physical Description:
366 pages : illustration ; 22 cm
"When Queenie Hennessy is told she has days to live she sends a letter on pink paper in which she bids goodbye to Harold Fry. It is a letter that inspires an unlikely walk, a cast of well-wishers and the examination of many lives unlived. But there is a second letter, a longer, quieter more complicated letter which she will never send. It is this letter, the one we did not know about in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which reveals the shocking and beautiful truth of Queenie's life"--
General Note:
"Originally published in the United Kingdom by Doubleday, ...London, in 2014"--Title page verso.
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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

Author Notes

Rachel Joyce is an author who was born in London in 1962. She started her career writing plays for the BBC Radio Four. She was part of the duo that won the 2007 Tinnis wood Award for "To Be A Pilgrim". She was longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize with her debut novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She later won the New Writer of the Year Award in 2012 from the National Book Awards for this same title. Her other works include: Perfect, The Love Song of Miss. Queenie Hennessy, A Snow Garden and Other Stories and The Music Shop.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In Joyce's Man Booker Prize short-listed debut novel (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, 2012), her peripatetic protagonist walks the length of England to get to the hospice bedside of Queenie Hennessy, a coworker he knew briefly, though not well, 20 years earlier. In this beguiling follow-up, Joyce tracks Harold's journey from Queenie's point-of-view. Disfigured and silenced by a facial malignancy, Queenie can only communicate through scrawled notes and garbled grunts; but with each of Fry's postcards imploring her to hang on until his arrival, Queenie takes the opportunity to revisit their shared past, trying to atone for her perceived part in the suicide death of Harold's son, David. With the support and exhortations of her tender caregivers and boisterous fellow patients, Queenie reveals a lonely but ultimately rewarding life gardening by the sea, where she both abandoned and embraced her love for this strange, silent man. Sequels are often slippery things, books readers welcome a bit hesitantly, fearful that the second installment won't hold a candle to the first. 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.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Joyce's bestselling novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, followed the journey of Harold, a retiree who chose to walk the entire length of England to reunite with an old friend. This novel focuses on the old friend in question: Queenie Hennessy, who's dying of cancer in a hospice in northern England. When she receives word that Harold's begun walking the 600 miles to see her, Queenie's apprehensive: they haven't seen each other in 20 years. As she begins to write in a long letter to Harold, readers see that their unorthodox friendship was far more complicated than Harold may think. Through Queenie's flashbacks, we see the beginnings of their friendship when they met as coworkers at the local brewery. We also learn new information about Queenie's secret friendship with Harold's teen son, David; the circumstances around David's tragic early death; and Queenie's long-hidden feelings for Harold. In the present day, Queenie's fellow patients in the hospice also take up the mantle of waiting for Harold, and some poignant and hilarious new bonds form. Fans of Harold's story will appreciate a chance to meet him again and hear his story from a new angle, and after a slow and slightly confusing start, even newcomers to Queenie and Harold's doomed love story will not be immune to its charms. A bittersweet final twist is a fitting cap to a tragic, touching tale. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Fans of Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry probably could not imagine the author writing a sequel to that shimmering book-and she hasn't. Her new novel is a parallel tale that delves deeply into the story of Queenie Hennessy, Harold Fry's old friend from the brewery whose letter prompted him to take that long, long walk across England. The novel, which mirrors the structure of its predecessor without feeling slavish, opens with a letter from Harold arriving for Queenie at St. Bernadine's Hospice. He's coming to her on foot, telling her to wait, and she panics. She's never revealed to him why she left Kingsbridge so abruptly, feeling that she is complicit in a terrible sadness in Harold's life, and has been living in solitude by the sea and tending a garden she's created to atone. A new nun, Sister Mary Inconnue, comes to the rescue, insisting that she will help Queenie write a letter telling all, which Harold can read upon his arrival. Verdict Touching on the depth of Queenie's feeling for Harold and her complicated relationship with his difficult son, this new work is somewhat darker and more detailed than Joyce's first book. All Harold Fry fans will love it. [See Prepub Alert, 8/4/14.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



All you have to do is wait! 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. Nobody stirred. "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. I stared at the postmark. Kingsbridge. Straight away I could picture the muddy blue of the estuary, the little boats moored to the quay. I heard the slapping of water against the plastic buoys and the clack of rigging against the masts. I didn't dare open the envelope. I just kept looking and looking and remembering. Sister Lucy rushed to my aid. She tucked her childlike finger under the flap and wiggled it along the fold to tear the envelope open. "Shall I read it out for you, Queenie?" I tried to say no, but the no came out as a funny noise she mistook for a yes. She unfolded the page, and her face seeped with pink. Then she began to read. "It's from someone called Harold Fry." She went as slowly as she could, but there were a few words only. "I am very sorry. Best wishes. Oh, but there's a P.S. too," said Sister Lucy. "He says, Wait for me." She gave an optimistic shrug. "Well, that's nice. Wait for him? I suppose he's going to make a visit." Sister Lucy folded the letter carefully and tucked it back inside the envelope. Then she placed my post in my lap, as if that were the end of it. A warm tear slipped down the side of my nose. I hadn't heard your name spoken for twenty years. I had held the words only inside my head. "Aw," said Sister Lucy. "Don't be upset, Queenie. It's all right." She pulled a tissue from the family-­size box on the coffee table and carefully wiped the corner of my closed-­up eye, my stretched mouth, even the thing that is on the side of my face. She held my hand, and all I could think of was my hand in yours, long ago, in a stationery cupboard. "Maybe Harold Fry will come tomorrow," said Sister Lucy. At the coffee table, Finty still scratched away at the foil window on her letter. "Come on, you little bugger," she grunted. "Did you say 'Harold Fry'?" Sister Catherine jumped to her feet and clapped her hands as if she was trapping an insect. It was the loudest thing that had happened all morning, and everyone murmured "Oh, oh, oh" again. "How could I have forgotten? He rang yesterday. Yes. He rang from a phone box." She spoke in small broken sentences, the way you do when you're trying to make sense of something that essentially doesn't. "The line was bad and he kept laughing. I couldn't understand a word. Now I think about it, he was saying the same thing. About waiting. He said to tell you he was walking." She slipped a yellow Post-­it note from her pocket and quickly unfolded it. "Walking?" said Sister Lucy, suggesting this was not something she'd tried before. "I assumed he wanted directions from the bus station. I told him to turn left and keep going." A few of the volunteers laughed, and I nodded as if they were right, they were right to laugh, because it was too much, you see, to show the consternation inside me. My body felt both weak and hot. Sister Catherine studied her yellow note. "He said to tell you that as long as he walks, you must wait. He also said he's setting off from Kingsbridge." She turned to the other nuns and volunteers. "Kingsbridge? Does anyone know where that is?" Sister Lucy said maybe she did but she was pretty sure she didn't. Someone told us he'd had an old aunt who lived there once. And one of the volunteers said, "Oh, I know Kingsbridge. It's in South Devon." "South Devon?" Sister Catherine paled. "Do you think he meant he's walking to Northumberland from all the way down there?" She was not laughing anymore, and neither was anyone else. They were only looking at me and looking at your letter and seeming rather anxious and lost. Sister Catherine folded her Post-­it note and disappeared it into the side pocket of her robe. "Bull's-­eye!" shouted Finty. "I've won a luxury cruise! It's a fourteen-­night adventure, all expenses paid, on the Princess Emerald!" "You have not read the small print," grumbled Mr. Henderson. And then, louder: "The woman has not read the small print." I closed my eyes. A little later I felt the sisters hook their arms beneath me and lift my body into the wheelchair. It was like the way my father carried me when I was a girl and I had fallen asleep in front of the range. "Stille, stille," my mother would say. I held tight on to your envelope, along with my notebook. I saw the dancing of crimson light beyond my eyelids as we moved from the dayroom to the corridor and then past the windows. I kept my eyes shut all the way, even as I was lowered onto the bed, even as the curtains were drawn with a whoosh against the pole, even as I heard the click of the door, afraid that if I opened my eyes the wash of tears would never stop. Harold Fry is coming, I thought. I have waited twenty years, and now he is coming. Excerpted from The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: A Novella by Rachel Joyce All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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