I wonder what makes a person change their entire life just over an emotion, and a fleeting emotion at that when you consider how love is bandied about in the press, amongst friends, in society. For some, however, it is not a passing phase, not something you are likely to grow out of with time or a change of surroundings, circumstances. For some it is a life-changing experience, something which can turn your world on its head and make you see everything in a new light. Love is something wonderful, even if we cannot express it, something which goes through both heart and mind, which moves us to do strange things just to show, to experience that love. What is hidden for some is obvious to others, and this new work by Rachel Joyce – following on as a companion volume to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – brings us a different perspective, the tale of a love unrequited, hidden over many long years.
Queenie Hennessy appears, at the start of this work, as a weak character who blossoms, who becomes someone to be reckoned with. She has little going for her, we are presented with a small, dumpy woman who dresses plainly, unobtrusively. A woman who finds her calling in a brewery, as well as love, and then turns her back, if not her mind, on everything that had meaning for her. She creates a new life, miles away from that which holds her heart, but cannot let go of this single emotion. No matter the distance, her love for Harold Fry remains strong, even all-consuming.
Photo Credit: Kelly Sue – Creative Commons
Harold Fry, as we learned from the first book, doesn’t appear to notice anything. Despite his closeness with Queenie as they travel from one public house to another, checking account books and bringing order to the brewery finances, he remains gloriously unaware of Queenie as anything other than a passenger in his car, a person who offers him a mint now and then. He is caught up in the problems of his own life, the worries over his son David, his ordered married life.
Rachel Joyce has matured as a writer in a most wonderful way: The Love Song Of Queenie Hennessy is a deep, personal, revealing evocation of unrequited love brought to the reader as memories, as regrets. It is, however, much more than this: it is packed with dark humor as much as with marvelous descriptions of a world seen through the eyes of a woman who knows that her days are numbered, who knows that she will never leave the hospice. One by one she sees her companions in this last residence disappear, succumbing to their illnesses, and knows that this is her fate too. She forces herself back into memories of the past without bitterness, but with great feelings of regret, and Rachel Joyce brings these emotions, these memories, the descriptions of time past and present day together in a wonderful evocation of life, love and missed chances. It is a far deeper book than Harold Fry was, reminding us that there are two sides to every story, two views of events, two lives which mixed together for a while, then parted, seemingly forever. With Harold Fry we saw society as a means for other people to further their own agenda on the backs of those around them, with Queenie Hennessy we see a smaller, more intimate society, where friendships form despite all the odds, and where support and help are the order of the day.
Published by Doubleday. ISBN: 978 0 857 52245 0
- Viktoria Michaelis.