If you haven’t read the two previous books in this trilogy, please don’t start Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce until you have. This novella can standalone but you will miss many references. It’s as delightfully funny and painfully sad as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and neatly completes the Fry story. It supplies the missing piece in the jigsaw, that hole in the middle. It is ten years since Maureen Fry’s husband Harold returned home from his walking adventure in search of old friend, Queenie. Maureen has a minor presence in the first two novels, so this is her painfully supressed story about unbearable grief. Not always a sympathetic character, Maureen has always felt different. Until she met Harold, she felt as if she were ‘being measured against something she didn’t understand and would never get right.’ Always lacking in self-confidence, Maureen struggled first after the death of their son David and later to accept Harold’s quest to see Queenie one last time. This book tells of Maureen’s quest, to find herself.
Deeply emotional and simply written, this is about the longevity of grief and how it can permeate every minute of your day. The depth of Joyce’s understanding of human nature, the poetically simple language and the parallel rather than sequential storytelling reminds me of Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy Barton novels.
There are some ‘chuckle out loud’ moments such as the scene with the assistant in a diner. Like Harold, Maureen meets people on her winter journey who surprise her in positive and darker ways. But principally it is about Maureen learning the confidence to accept – and love – herself as she is, to accept each person as an individual and to understand that David was his own person too. She cannot mould the real person David was into one that fits her memory of him.
A quick read, it can be read in one sitting, but for all its brevity it packs a punch. I was still thinking about it days after I read the last page, always a good sign.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
Read my reviews of these other novels by Rachel Joyce:-
MISS BENSON’S BEETLE
THE LOVE SONG OF MISS QUEENIE HENNESSY
And read here the first paragraph of THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY
If you like this, try:-
‘The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes’ by Anna McPartlin
‘The Hoarder’ by Jess Kid
‘The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman’ by Julietta Henderson
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
MAUREEN FRY AND THE ANGEL OF THE NORTH by Rachel Joyce #bookreview https://wp.me/p2ZHJe-5Td via @SandraDanby