Rachel Joyce’s debut The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was an exploration of a quiet, old-fashioned type of Englishness, as the eponymous protagonist walked from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed to ’save’ a dying ex-colleague.
This “companion” novel, as Joyce calls it, is not a true sequel but a different spin on the tale: waiting in a hospice, Queenie writes a letter for Harold confessing 20-year-old secrets binding their lives.
There is little point reading this before Pilgrimage, as it assumes the reader is familiar with that plot. Instead, Queenie’s story is one of desperate hopes and repressed passions: she lived a far fuller life than expected, yet oddly Joyce makes her ’voice’ eerily similar to Harold’s.
The slow-burning narrative is engaging — though occasionally unrealistic — as it invites speculation before the big reveal and while some twists are decipherable in advance, this brings congratulations rather than disappointment.
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