by Rachel Joyce
I read the Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy first. Apparently it is the second in the series, but this is the one I got for Christmas so I read it in a couple of days in the holidays.
I couldn’t put it down. It was sad and funny and moving and very poignant. At the end came a brilliant twist and I felt bereft when it finished.
So I was very pleased when the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry came up on my Kindle bargains. I paid my pound and I got my money’s worth. I had to train myself to read on my iPhone on the bus and not be travel sick, because I wanted to read it so much. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there. And then this morning at the bus stop – yes, I gave in to temptation and didn’t walk to the Uxbridge Road – I finished it. I was crying. So embarrassing. Had to avoid the people I know.
Now my mother always used to ask me whenever I came back from the cinema whether I had wept. If I had she would surmise that the film had been good and worth going to. Well, the same applies to books. The tears were there because of the very moving yet hopeful ending. And that is what I need. A book that helps you reflect on your own life and yet gives you hope, while at the same time telling an excellent and very unusual story. I don’t think it matters in which order you read them. They are both two versions of the same story – if you read one you wonder how the twist will come in the other. You will not be disappointed.
Many years ago I read Journey through Britain by John Hillaby which was totally inspirational – a true account of a man’s walk around Britain. Ever since than it is something I have wanted to do, but these things take time, preparation and money. So it was lovely to read about Harold Fry’s walk from Devon to Berwick with no planning, no preparation and no money. Inadvertently at first, and then deliberately, he has to rely on the kindness of strangers to help him achieve this aim. I found that so uplifting in this age of stranger danger and suspicion.