Tag Archives: Rachel Joyce

#BookReview ‘Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North’ by Rachel Joyce

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. Rachel Joyce 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.

Read my reviews of these other novels by Rachel Joyce:-

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

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

#BookReview ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’ by Rachel Joyce #adventure

What an uplifting read is Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, an author who never fails to deliver a read that is both thoughtful and chuckle-out-loud. It is a tale of failure, friendship, the spirit of adventure and never-say-die. Above all it is a story of not giving up, never allowing yourself to be defeated. Rachel Joyce

Margery Benson has never fit in, never married. It is 1950 and she is a teacher at a girls’ school, mocked and ridiculed by pupils, never liked by colleagues. Alone now after the death of her aunts who raised her after the death of her parents, she knows she lacks self-worth but doesn’t know how to change things. The one thing that gives her pleasure is remembering time spent as a child with her father who encouraged her to read. Her favourite book was Incredible Creatures, an illustrated guide to extinct and ‘never found’ animals. Margery fell in love with a gold beetle suspected to be living on the Pacific island of New Caledonia.

A sequence of events sets the middle-aged Margery on an ocean liner bound for Australia in search of both the beetle and a purpose for her life. After interviewing and rejecting three unsuitable people for the job of her assistant, Margery is resigned to travelling alone. Until she is joined at the last minute by probably the most unsuitable of the three applicants, Enid Pretty. ‘Her hair was a stiff puff with the perky hat pinned on top; about as useful in terms of sun protection as a beer mat on her head.’ Unbeknown to both women, they are being followed by someone else. And unbeknown to Margery, Enid has another reason for wanting to leave the country in a hurry.

I read this at a pace as the women negotiate prejudice, snobbishness, barriers and phobias. Joyce doesn’t spare the at times graphic detail of two unsuitable women on a tropical island facing cyclones, eels, hunger and illness, trekking through the jungle, in search of a beetle that probably doesn’t exist.

A joyful book.

Read my reviews of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and Perfect and read the first paragraph of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, all by Rachel Joyce.

If you like this, try:-
The Signature of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert
Doppler’ by Erlend Loe
Highland Fling’ by Nancy Mitford

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
MISS BENSON’S BEETLE by Rachel Joyce #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4UW via @SandraDanby

Great opening paragraph… 59

the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry - GOP 5-6-13
“The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelt of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with  slice of toast that he wasn’t eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen’s telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbours’ closeboard fencing.”
‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce