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‘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 9780857520647chance 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.

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