He rolls his neck every now and then…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a simile from Rachel Joyce…

I read the novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce (pictured above), about three years ago and found it a delightful summer pastime. Harold Fry is a retired Englishman stuck with an unsympathetic wife.  When he discovers that a former coworker — one he hasn’t heard from in 20 years — is dying in a hospice some 600 miles away, he decides to visit her. But it’s his mode of transport that makes the book interesting. He decides to walk.

Writing about the book in the New York Times, reviewer Janet Maslin observed, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is not just a book about lost love. It is about all the wonderful everyday things Harold discovers through the mere process of putting one foot in front of the other.”

The woman who was dying in the hospice — Queen Hennessy — is the protagonist of Rachel Joyce’s next book, The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy. So, essentially, Joyce tells exactly the same story but from a different point of view. I didn’t find the sequel quite as sophisticated as its predecessor, but, it had a compelling plot (even though I knew the ending) and some bits of very fine writing. Here, for example, is my favourite simile:

He rolls his neck every now and then as if it is a hard thing to carry so much cleverness in that head of his.

That kind of cheeky observation marks the tone of the book — simultaneously kind and sharp-tongued.

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