Book Review | The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce
Hardcover, 343 pages
Publication date:
October 21th 2014
Doubleday Canada
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.


“It is a hard thing, as I said, this learning to love. But it is an even harder thing, I think, to learn to be ordinary.” (p. 205)

Back in 2012, a book by the name of The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce came out and started making waves. The book told a fictional story of a recently retired man who receives a letter from an old acquaintance who tells him that she is dying. He then proceeds to embark on a journey to visit her, travelling by feet from a distance that you generally would not walk. The book while it had an interesting concept did not truly resonate with me though I did find it a compelling read. However when I discovered that there would be a companion novel featuring Queenie, the old acquaintance that Harold had set out to visit I knew that I would very much take pleasure in hearing her story and I was right.

Like Harold’s story, the story of Miss Queenie Hennessy was not always a joyful one either. We learn with reference to her complicated relationship with her parent in addition to who she was before she came to work at the brewery with Harold. however perhaps most surprising of all was the friendship of sorts that developed between her and Harold’s son, David. In Harold’s story we do not see much of David, and from what we do get glimpse of, he seems to be an exceedingly selfish, spoiled and ungrateful person. However in Queenie’s story we witness a different side to him, one that shows him as a troubled and lonely individual. He ends up being a more sympathetic character in that he is portrayed as being extremely flawed although he does have a bit of a softer side too. Unlike everybody else in his life, Queenie is able to see past his façade and in her attempts to assist him, she gets further involved with Harold’s life and does something she later regrets and blames herself for its result.

Queenie herself is truly a fascinating character, and she was easier to relate to and sympathize with than Harold even though both are incredibly flawed people. I enjoyed following her tale as she left her workplace and Harold and came to find and create her own home and garden in a place by the sea. And I enjoyed reading about the conversations and behaviours of the cast of characters that she encounters at the hospice she ends up in. Accordingly while I was well aware of what happens to her in the conclusion, I felt that having read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry before The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy did not ruin the book for me. Instead it just further enriched my reading experience of the book.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is both an uplifting and heartbreaking read, and it was made even extra emotional in part due to the epilogue in the final pages of the book. Rachel Joyce is an exceptionally talented storyteller and writer, and she does a flawless job in this book of showcasing Queenie’s own personal journey. As Sister Mary in the book tells Queenie, “People think you have to walk to go on a journey. But you don’t you see. You can lie in bed and make a journey too.” She couldn’t be more right, thank you Rachel Joyce for allowing me to come along on Queenie’s ordinary yet extraordinary journey.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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