A profoundly moving, yet humorous novel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy was our August 2017 book choice for our subscription boxes, and it was a huge hit.
Set in the counties of Devon in southern England, and Northumberland, the most northern county in England, this story of Queenie and her colleague, Harold, had stunning backdrops.
We chose to concentrate on Queenie's home in Northumberland for our book boxes, and visited Queenie's village, Embleton, situated on the coast of this glorious county. What we found was nothing short of spectacular.
Come with us on a reading journey!
It was a lovely warm day when we travelled to Embleton Bay; granted, it was a little overcast but you can't have everything, can you? As Queenie, the main character in the novel, says: 'Clouds...Grey ones. This is England. What do you expect?' page 191. She's got a point.
To put your mind at rest, this partially obscured sign below does indeed say 'Embleton' instead of 'Embletor' or 'Embletob' or even 'Embletop' - trust us, we never tell fibs.
Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The village of Embleton lies on the coastline of the county of Northumberland, and faces the North sea. Along this coast lies some breathtaking beaches and Embleton Bay is one of the best spots amongst them all.
The village itself is small, with one shop, a church and a pub. We stopped at the church first as it was so pretty. But then, we do love to visit churches wherever we go, especially small village ones like this. And, yes, we seem to have a tendency to chop of the end of the word, Embleton.
Taking a stroll down a strange-sounding street 'W.T. Stead' - named after a journalist and social reformer - we arrived at a gate and a golf course which you cross to get to the beach.
'The road leads like an invitation towards the sea...I can see why I followed it because it has a pull, a wide straight road like that. Between me and a thread of blue in the distance rose pale sand dunes and clumps of marram grass,' page 253.
In the photo on the right, you can just see the hint of the sea - a 'thread of blue in the distance' indeed. We are smiling already!
Once across the golf course, you reach the long, wide, open beach which, even on Summer days, is fairly empty and, on a day like today, you can be almost alone. Beautiful, don't you think?
'...in Embleton the land lay wide and open,' page 265.
If you look closely in the first picture, you can see that south of the beach are the ruins of a castle: Dunstanburgh. Northumberland has the great distinction of having the most castles in all of England: seventy in total. These ruins are of a 14th century fortification that stands on a remote headland off the coast and accessible by a coastal walk.
'Below there was the sea, the ragged black-tipped shoreline fringed with white foam, the distant silhouette of the broken castle,' page 264.
The castle ruins up close:
After having seen the fascinating ruins, we headed up the beach northwards towards the cliffs. It's here that Queenie found her home and built a garden - her 'sea garden' - while she lived in one of the beach houses. From the pages of the novel, 'Embleton Bay is a sprinkling of clifftop summer beach houses,' p82.
'The beach houses took me by surprise. It was like coming across a party when you think you are alone. They were mainly boarded up, though a few were still open, with deck chairs ... out on the grass. No two huts were alike. Some were no more than wooden sheds. Others were painted and had verandas, steps, and circular windows. They were set apart from one another without any sense of pattern or order, or indeed path, as though someone had taken a handful of beach houses and dropped them on a sandy clifftop,' page 263.
'My fingers trembled like anemones in the rock pools of my garden. I had made it on a clifftop by the sea, and so I called it a sea garden,' page 32.
The county of Northumberland and the book, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, were the basis for our August 2017 book subscription boxes.We filled this box with Northumberland-based delights and book-related gifts!
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