I rather enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, so I was interested to read the companion book, from the perspective of the woman Harold was walking to. Queenie is in the last stages of her life and uses her ‘waiting time’ to write a letter to Harold, as she is no longer able to speak. Some of it is a little surreal and morphine-addled, lending veracity to her narrative. Colour is provided by the other residents of the hospice, but it’s heartbreaking as they inevitably die.
“If only memory were a library with everything stored where it should be. If only you could walk to the desk and say to the assistant, I’d like to return the painful memories about … and take out some happier ones, please”
The story of her time with Harold is moving – an absolute classic of unrequited love. Though Queenie has a secret, and she must keep writing until she gets to it. The thing I enjoyed most in the novel was the vivid description of her sea garden: a monument to her life in driftwood and shells.
The ending took me by surprise – something I hugely admire in a novel. I highly recommend it.
Have you read it? What did you think?
The idea of a novel taking place during another novel, but from a different perspective, was very interesting. The parallel story enhances the first. Are there any other novelists that have done this? I’d love to know.