I glanced at a few of the reviews before buying this book, none of them do it justice and I doubt if mine will either. This is a wonderful story that entertains and disquiets in equal measure. Ostensibly it is about a man, just retired, who sets out to walk from Devon to Berwick on Tweed after receiving a letter from an old work colleague. The colleague, Queenie, is dying of cancer. Harold pens a quick reply and sets off to post it, but somehow the posting of this letter seems inadequate. He decides instead to walk the 500 odd miles to Berwick, taking us with him.
It is clear very early on that Harold's life has been a disappointment. An inability to connect with his son, (stemming from his own neglectful childhood) has driven a stake between him and his wife, Maureen, and what was once a good marriage has deteriorated into a hopeless desert of non communication.
It is during his long walk that we discover all about Harold, and Maureen, and their son David, and all about the long held grievances and misunderstandings that have culminated in their isolation and loneliness. Sometimes these memories are extremely painful and I found myself moved beyond belief at this fictional tale.
One of the 2 star reviews on this page unbelievably states "nothing much happens". Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything happens as this endearing man struggles to make sense of his life, struggles to find hope and optimism when doors have been closed resolutely in his face, and struggles to assert his humanity on an indifferent world.
This is a story about all those things we leave unsaid, of all those regrets we fight daily to forget. Wonderful writing, clear recognizable characters, a story that won't leave you, and an examination in depth of all those weird and wonderful contradictions that make us what we are.