Tag Archives: Rachel Joyce


Perfectby Rachel Joyce

For 11-year-old friends, Byron and James, the summer of 1972 was a landmark in their lives. It was a time of innocence, a time when all young boys should have been having adventures and enjoying the great outdoors. But for Byron and James – and their families – this was a summer of momentous change that set them all on new and very strange paths.

It all began with a traffic jam on the way to school. When Byron’s mum decides to take a short cut through the notorious housing estate she sets in motion a train of events that lead us to the second thread of the narrative.

it is 40 years later. Jim spends his days cleaning tables in the supermarket cafe and his nights slavishly following the routines imposed by his OCD. He has no friends but his routines keep him far too busy as he strives to keep himself and everyone around him safe. 

As the narrative swings between 1972 and the present, the connection between the two slowly begins to take shape. It is a very tragic tale but one with an all-be-it discretely hidden sense of hope. It is not an easy story. Byron in particular faces challenges that no 11-year-old should ever have to. 

If there is a villain in this tale it is Byron’s distant and domineering father. The greatest tragedy of the book is that when his young son needs support and love, his father is unable to offer it, leaving a very confused boy to make sense of the cruelties of the world on his own.

I found this to be an emotionally charged but very enjoyable book. I was just a couple of years younger than James and Byron in 1972 and have my own memories of the period that Rachal Joyce evokes very clearly. And although our backgrounds were very different, I found I had a real affinity with both boys, but Byron in particular. I could feel his frustrations. how much different his life might have been if anyone had just given him a hug and sympathised with him when he needed it.

Although not perfect, Perfect is a compelling read that will pull all your emotional strings. A great read. 

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Harold Fry #2)

The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessyby Rachel Joyce

This book comes as a companion to Ms Joyce’s previous work, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and it is Queenie’s opportunity to tell her side of the story.

In the first book, we followed Harold Fry as he walked from his South Devon home to see his old friend Queenie Hennessy in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Harold’s motivations were at time unclear and the unfolding of his story left a lot of unanswered questions. In telling her side of the story, Queenie is able to provide some of those answers.

Love Song starts at the same point as its predecessor, with a letter from Queenie telling Harold that she is dying of cancer. They have not seen or communicated with each other for over twenty years and this sudden and unexpected letter is the catalyst that kick-starts Harold’s long journey, both physically and metaphorically. 

Queenie has no preconceived intentions when she writes the letter; she simply wants to say her goodbyes. When she learns of Harold’s pilgrimage she is persuaded by one of the staff of the Nursing Home to write down the things she needs to tell Harold in the form of a letter. 

Reflecting on the time they spent as work colleagues, it turns out that there was more going on than Harold realised. But as anyone who has read the first book will be well aware, Harold Fry is not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer. Queenie, however, is quite the opposite and is able to offer more of an insight into Harold’s family life than he knows himself. 

Whilst Queenie’s story is intriguing and touching, for me it lacks the simplicity and good humour that made Harold’s story so enjoyable. I enjoyed to book but now as much as I had hoped. Sequels can often be disappointing, failing to match the original, and in this case, I have to admit that it I was disappointed. Not that this is a bad book – it is a very touching and compelling tale with some interesting characters. Queenie’s fellow residents at St Bernadine’s Hospice provide much of the book’s humour as they follow Harold’s progress. 

The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy is a good companion but does not in my view stand up on its own, you need to read both books to get the whole story.




The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry #1)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryby Rachel Joyce

Recently retired brewery rep Harold Fry lives a quiet life with his wife Maureen in their South Devon home. He is a man of routine and simple pleasures with no discernable ambition other than to make other people happy. He never goes anywhere or does anything. Not, you might think, the most likely type of character to be the hero of a book. And if it had not been for the letter, you would be right. For Harold, the note he receives from along forgotten work colleague, Queenie Hennessy is the unexpected catalyst that changes everything.

It is not the letter itself, or its contents, that turn Harold’s life upside down. 

He had only left the house to post his short and simple reply, but as he walked down the roads to the post box, something changed within him. He continues past the post box, starting on a journey that would change not only his life but those of his wife, Queenie and many others who take inspiration from this strange man’s pilgrimage.

Not that he sees it that way. For Harold, it just something he has to do. 

What makes his journey so different and inspiring is that he is doing it on foot. Walking six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed would be a challenge for anyone, but for a 65-year-old man who, on his own admittance does not walk, wearing only a pair of yaughting shoes and with no map, compass or phone, this trip was never going to be easy.

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage…” is a touching and entertaining tale of one man’s journey of self-discovery. Through the people he meets and recollections of his own long-buried memories, Harold learns again what it means to love and be loved.

The highs and lows of Harold’s journey are both entertaining and thought-provoking. I coldn;t help but have some sympathy for the poor man. I felt I understood his confusion and frustrations, although I like to think that I could get my own life in order without all the blisters and nights spent on park benches.

A thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking book.