This review contains spoilers for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, which was a beautiful story and you should go read it — but don’t bother with this sequel.
“People can love in different ways. You can love full-on, with a lot of noise, or you can do it quietly, over the washing-up. You can even love a person without them knowing.”
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy tells the story of Harold and Queenie from Queenie’s perspective, as she writes it all out while waiting in hospice for his arrival. It’s a sad story, maybe even sadder than Harold’s, and includes the rather depressing goings-on at the hospice.
But that’s not what I didn’t like about this story. I just flat out didn’t like that Queenie has been in love with Harold all these years. That she fell in love with him when they worked at the brewery together, and spent every moment thinking about him. One of my favorite parts of Harold Frye was that Harold was not in love with Queenie — that he was her friend, and he felt loyalty for her, but it wasn’t love. I hate that Joyce completely flipped things around for the sequel.
The writing is just as lovely as in Harold Frye, and I did like the ending, in which Joyce explains something that bugged me throughout the whole book. And if you’re not as attached to the narrative of the first novel as I am (I did just finish reading it), you might like it more than I did.