Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Joyce’

Day two of making up for the missing weeks…  I started reading this one when I had the attention span of a gnat, so it took me over a fortnight which is less than impressive!

Book 26 – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce.  Harold is a retired man who lives an empty and lonely life in a house with his distant wife Maureen.  One day, Harold receives a letter from an old colleague explaining that they have cancer and saying their farewells.  Harold doesn’t quite know how to respond so writes a brief impersonal note and takes it to the post box.  And somehow, without any forethought or plan, he starts walking the length of England to see Queenie before she dies.

This book has garnered some great reviews, but it was a hard one for me to keep reading in a lot of ways.  There was a mental map forming when Harold walked, which was difficult to keep track of in my mind, especially when I put the book down and picked it up again a few hours later.    There were some irritating and obnoxious hanger-on characters who changed the whole tenor of the walk and disrupted the experience for me.  There was a degree of foolishness in Harold, at the start at least, that made him vaguely ridiculous as the protagonist.  And finally, there was foreshadowing, hanging over the story like a cloud, so you knew something was going to be revealed and were just waiting for the when.

However I did feel the story was a grower, and as it developed I enjoyed the way Harold reacted to and lived within his environment.  The walk freed him from the shell he had created around himself, and allowed him to process the deep-seated pain of tragedy in his life.  Alongside this, Maureen grows to understand how much she misses Harold, and how their distant relationship was created not by a lack of love, but by a need to create a rationale for an unbearable loss.   Slowly, his walk rebuilds their relationship and allows them to accept the past.  I enjoyed the later parts of the book very much, if you exclude the secondary characters who ruin the walk.

I wonder how much of the difficulty getting into it may be about the fact I was still quite unwell when I started reading it, because I certainly feel it had a strong ending and I was getting a bit better by then!

This is another one where the book doesn’t entirely live up to the blurb, for me, but it is moving, challenging and enhancing to see Harold’s world opened up by his deepening understanding of the essence of humanity.  It’s quite a powerful message, really.  I wish it had stayed on that and not veered into something a bit different with multiple secondary characters who added nothing to the tale, for me at least.

Overall, a positive but with an element I feel took something away from the tale.  I’m sure others will have found a different message from that section, but my gnat-brain couldn’t work it out!

Happy reading,



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