I have to admit to having read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy before reading this. My mother always said that I do everything arse about face (her words, not mine!) Anyway , I have been listening to the audiobook of this on my i-pod while I have been unpacking, and just as I was listening to the final chapter l unpacked my copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I had completely forgotten I had as my books have been in storage for the past three years . It has been like the best Christmas ever unpacking them all!
EXCERPT: The letter that changed everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelled of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with a slice of toast he wasn’t eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen’s telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbours closeboard fencing.
‘Harold!’ called Maureen above the vacuum cleaner. ‘Post.’
He thought he might like to go out, but the only thing to do was mow the lawn and he had done that yesterday. The vacuum cleaner tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter. She sat opposite Harold.
Maureen was a slight woman with a cap of silver hair and a brisk walk. When they first met, nothing pleased him more than to make her laugh. To watch her neat frame collapse into unruly happiness.
‘It’s for you,’ she said. He didn’t know what she meant until she slid an envelope across the table, and stopped it just short of Harold’s elbow. They both looked at the letter as if they’d never seen one before. It was pink.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise – and utterly irresistible – storyteller.
Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him – allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.. .
MY THOUGHTS: This is a love story. Not a romance, because there is a difference you know, but a love story. Often, as with the case of Maureen and Harold, we lose sight of the person we fell in love with. We become obsessed with keeping the house clean, and the lawns mown, with the minutiae of daily life. And perhaps we lose sight of ourselves, too.
Perhaps this is also a coming-of-age story for, although Harold is in his 60’s when he goes off to post his letter to Queenie Hennessy and instead embarks on his unplanned journey, this is really about Harold rediscovering himself.
This is a book we should all read, and revisit regularly, just to remind ourselves what is really important in life. 💕💕💕💕
THE AUTHOR: 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.
DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. 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 Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1215882293