Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Harold Fry, Queenie Hennessy, and Related Stories
When The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry begins, Harold receives a letter from a former colleague named Queenie. She is dying and has written to say goodbye. Harold writes a letter back but instead of just dropping it into the mailbox, he starts walking. He decides to walk across England, determined to get to Queenie and see her one last time. In The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, readers spend the same span of time with Queenie as she learns that Harold is coming and tries to hold on until he arrives.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage was a huge hit for debut novelist Rachel Joyce. In The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy, readers get the other side of Harold and Queenie's story. I don't know if Joyce always planned to write a second book about these characters or if she made that decision after seeing the love that readers had for Harold. Either way, the second story never felt entirely necessary to me.
I enjoyed reading about Harold's adventures in the first book. Harold was a delightful character and it was wonderful to read about people looking out for and caring for each other in a time when that seems rare. I think it's the first time I really thought about the lack of elderly protagonists in literature and set out to find more of them.
Reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy was a tender, lovely experience. The book is its own sort of love song to the quiet moments of love and life. But hearing Queenie's side didn't seem to add much to the story overall and revealed few things that we didn't already know about this pair's history. I'm glad I experienced the story of Harold and Queenie, but I wonder if it might have been better served in one book that alternated between perspectives.
Do you recommend any connected stories? Do you think they are necessary or is the story better when it is told only once?