Moving, unforgettable and guaranteed to change the way you think about dying, how one lives with regret and, of course, love, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is Rachel Joyce’s parallel story to the bestselling book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Take a look at our reading group discussion notes and make your next book club meet-up one to remember.
Reading Group questions
- Although Queenie is waiting for Harold Fry, she too is on a journey. Did you notice any parallels between the journeys in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy?
- In her letter, Queenie notes that ‘we write ourselves certain parts and then keep playing them as if we have no choice’. Do you agree with this statement?
- ‘When I woke, I had a visitor. She had a grapefruit on her head. She’d also brought her horse’. From the beginning of the novel, it is clear that Queenie is under the influence of morphine. With hindsight, how far do you think reality blurred with illusion?
- Queenie describes her sea garden in exquisite detail. What is the relevance of the sea garden to the novel as a whole?
- In her letter to Harold, Queenie describes how she witnessed David’s declining mental health. Do you put David’s troubles down to nature or nurture?
- ‘Sometimes we like to laugh at ourselves. We like to be silly.’ How does Rachel Joyce use humour throughout The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy?
- ‘I am starting again, I thought. Because that is what you do when you reach the last stop. You make a new beginning.’ How do beginnings and endings interact throughout this novel?
- In her own letter, included at the end of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, Rachel Joyce says that the patients at St Bernadine’s are a ‘chorus for Queenie – her backing vocals’. However, Finty and her fellow patients are described in vivid detail. What backstories might you give them?
- The doctor of philosophy argues that ‘when we love, it is only to fool ourselves that we are something’. Queenie’s unrequited love for Harold is sustained for twenty years. What do you make of this? Is it true love or something else?
- At which point in her life do you think Queenie is happiest?
- Is the Harold of this novel the same man that walks out of his home in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?
- Queenie writes ‘I was to blame. I am to blame.’ Is her guilt justified?
- Has the book changed your perception of hospices?