Maureen – Rachel Joyce

In the first book of a trilogy, Harold Fry embarks on a walking pilgrimage to see his dieing friend Queenie. The second book details Queenie’s backstory. And now the trilogy is completed with a novel about Maureen, Harold’s wife, setting out on another journey. Maureen is difficult and damaged, both judgemental and unlikeable. In fact, she is dealing with unprocessed grief over a death that occurred more than 30 years previously. There is a profoundly moving finale with emotional impact: self-discovery and forgiveness and the question – can grief be appropriated? All three books are wonderful; The Music Shop is an unrelated gem.

Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce

Ms. Joyce has written some unabashedly sentimental books (e.g., The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) and this book follows in this genre. In 1950s London, Margery Benson, a 46-year-old spinster, flees her teaching job to commence an obsessive journey, a quest for a never-discovered golden beetle in New Caledonia. She recruits a travelling companion, Enid Pretty, who is wildly inappropriate as a research assistant. But this unlikely odd couple eventually develops a close friendship, as one might predict, despite many hilarious frustrations. But all is not sweetness and light in this story: there is a murder sub-plot and a deranged stalker. Some laugh-out-loud sections are coupled with some truly poignant moments. Above all, this is a superb literary example of the transformative power of friendship.

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop - Rachel Joyce.jpgThis is a magical book about the power of music, of listening to music and learning to listen to silence. Frank has a music shop in 1988 with only vinyl records. Part of the charm of this book is the context; Frank’s shop is located on a failing street with other shops closing. He is a “music whisperer”, someone who can choose music that will change someone’s life. And then Frank meets Ilse and his life becomes complicated. The ending will bring you to tears because of the redemptive power of music. Joyce is a spectacular writer; read everything that she writes.