This is a delightful, poignant tale of a retired couple, Harold and Maureen, living out their days in Devon, when something happens that will change their future. And it is such a small occurrence on the face of it - a letter arrives for Harold from a former colleague of his at the brewery, Queenie Hennessy. Harold writes a reply, and he sets off down the road to post it. But then he continues walking. And carries on walking, and it becomes his purpose to get to Queenie, to save her, all the hundreds of miles away up in a Hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, on foot, in just his yachting shoes.
Beautifully understated, the story plays out so well, there is sadness, some very touching moments, and there is some very well-observed gentle humour too. For Harold, and for Maureen, there is the time and space to take stock and think about their lives together, their son David, and about the events in the past that have brought them to where they are now. Can things be different for them; can they heal the divide that has grown? The reader is not party to the full story until close to the end of the novel. So we can only guess at the reason behind Harold's determination, whatever the odds, to get to Queenie, though we know it's not romantic love.
There is hope despite the difficult times. There is some lovely prose as Harold recognises and admires the nature all around him. His journey becomes more than just one that concerns himself and Queenie; it grows to involve the people he meets on his way, such a variety, by and large he is enriched by his encounters and buoyed by them. He is taken into strangers' confidences, and realises that so many people, despite appearances, have this inner torment that they carry with them. There are beautiful, simple but striking insights into humans, made through Harold.
This is a gentle, touching and rewarding tale, and what a promising, engaging first novel; it's a real accomplishment. I feel sure very many readers will enjoy this.