‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage’ of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Since Rachel Joyce’s book has been a Sunday Times best seller, it’s well known and widely reviewed.
Harold Fry sets off to post a letter but, through a combination of the confusion in his own mind and a more or less chance meeting with a young woman, he is propelled onto his weeks’-long pilgrimage of the title.
On the surface it’s the story of a journey – from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed on foot. However, there are journeys within journeys: Harold’s emotional one through his memories, his wife’s similar one, the unfolding of their relationship, and the reader’s gradual understanding of what actually happens.
On his way Harold meets a variety of helpful and not so helpful characters and participates in some mild adventures.
His goal is to reach a friend who is dying of cancer. He believes that if he walks to her she will live. To explain this odd belief and its outcome would spoil the story – suffice to say, in the world of this novel, it makes sense.
The writing is crisp and clear – we see what Harold and his wife Maureen see and understand what they feel.
I enjoyed it, but didn’t find it a page-turner – it’s a leisurely read, in keeping with the very slow progress of the pilgrimage. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in characters and their psychological journeys, and as a plus they’d get a clear picture, mostly positive, of modern England. A feel-good book which is not trivial.
Picture from Waterstone’s where there is also a brief synopsis.
I just finished reading it and think the timing was perfect for me as I was coming to the end of a week of flu, many of the days not being able to read a thing, so I was being pulled along by Harold’s journey and not really holding out great expectations of it, a ramble was more what I was after and this is what I found, along with a few nourishing doses of delight and laughter in places.
I could totally imagine it as television drama and was not surprised to discover at the end that the author is indeed an accomplished writer of radio plays and drama.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I can see how this book would be good if you’re not feeling 100%. I hope you’re OK now.