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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry [Hardcover]

Rachel Joyce
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,093 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Mar 2012

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012: 'The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching' - Claire Tomalin

When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.

He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone.

All he knows is that he must keep walking.

To save someone else's life.

'Wonderful' - Guardian

Product details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (15 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857520644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857520647
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,093 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Perfect published in July 2013. She was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards 'New Writer of the Year' in December 2012.

Joyce has also written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play.

She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver.

Product Description


"One of the sweetest, most delicately-written stories I've read in a long time. One man's walk along the length of England to save the life of a dying woman. Each chapter describes a different encounter along the way, with a definite nod to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Philosophical, intriguing, and profoundly moving." (Richard Madeley Foyles website)

"Uplifting, funny and delicate" (Jon Stock The Daily Telegraph)

"From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn't want to leave him. Impossible to put down" (Erica Wagner The Times)

"Deploying meticulously precise and deceptively light-as-air prose, Joyce takes Harold across the bitter wastelands of regret to the sunlit uplands of emotional redemption with a ­clarity that is at times almost unbearably moving" (Karen Robinson The Sunday Times)

"Distinguished by remarkable confidence... Polished to perfection... Joyce's experience as a playwright shows in her ear for dialogue and eye for character diatom - even the walk-on parts stay with you as real people. She handles her material with deceptive lightness but Harold's journey towards a better version of himself is totemic. To read about him is to be moved to follow him" (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012. Rachel Joyce is the Specsavers National Book Awards New Writer of the Year 2012.

A tender, quietly comic, heartstopping first novel from a powerful new voice in fiction.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
616 of 634 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming, touching and engaging story 5 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a delightful, poignant tale of a retired couple, Harold and Maureen, living out their days in Devon, when something happens that will change their future. And it is such a small occurrence on the face of it - a letter arrives for Harold from a former colleague of his at the brewery, Queenie Hennessy. Harold writes a reply, and he sets off down the road to post it. But then he continues walking. And carries on walking, and it becomes his purpose to get to Queenie, to save her, all the hundreds of miles away up in a Hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, on foot, in just his yachting shoes.

Beautifully understated, the story plays out so well, there is sadness, some very touching moments, and there is some very well-observed gentle humour too. For Harold, and for Maureen, there is the time and space to take stock and think about their lives together, their son David, and about the events in the past that have brought them to where they are now. Can things be different for them; can they heal the divide that has grown? The reader is not party to the full story until close to the end of the novel. So we can only guess at the reason behind Harold's determination, whatever the odds, to get to Queenie, though we know it's not romantic love.

There is hope despite the difficult times. There is some lovely prose as Harold recognises and admires the nature all around him. His journey becomes more than just one that concerns himself and Queenie; it grows to involve the people he meets on his way, such a variety, by and large he is enriched by his encounters and buoyed by them. He is taken into strangers' confidences, and realises that so many people, despite appearances, have this inner torment that they carry with them.
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208 of 220 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelming 23 Aug 2012
By Jade66
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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317 of 339 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book 31 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Be prepared to confront your personal demons when you read this book. For the mature reader in particular, I challenge you not to find something in this novel to make you at the least uneasy. It is ultimately an uplifting story, but along the way there is a great deal of pain and for many there will be uncomfortable home truths about things that we could have handled better, regrets about slipping into complacency and about the loss of passion. There is the terrible pain caused by the loss of a child; the guilt engendered by failure to appreciate and help a friend; the estrangement of a once-loving couple - and the knowledge that many of these things cannot be put right however much you want to.

Harold's walk is the vehicle for exploring these ideas and more. A very ordinary and unassuming man, not in any sense a hero, Harold's whim to walk to Berwick on Tweed to see a dying friend and by so doing to save her from cancer, provides the author with the opportunity to weave in the stories of many other people who, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, are living "lives of quiet desperation". The people he meets on his journey are often kind and generous but many are battling their own demons. At one point the simple pilgrimage that Harold has unwittingly created clashes with our modern world of celebrity - represented by the PR men and tabloid journalists - and you pray for Harold to escape all this and revert to his simple goal.

In the end Harold and his wife Maureen - a somewhat stereotypical middle-aged woman with net curtains and a clipped way of speaking that discourages anything unconventional - do find resolution and redemption. To say more would spoil the story. Do read it - it will make you laugh and cry but it will not leave you untouched.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Read on recommendation of my online book club - it wasn't the book for the book club - I really enjoyed it beautifully written and would recommend.
Published 3 hours ago by chipchop
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly emotional journey
I chose this book at random and I am so pleased it jumped out at me. Harolds journey is an inspirational one. Read more
Published 7 hours ago by Andrew Mawdsley
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book
A beautifully written book. It wasn't the greatest page turner but a book to savour each episode. There is nothing not to like in this, feelings of empathy, sadness and joy are... Read more
Published 13 hours ago by Mrs. T. Ashton
4.0 out of 5 stars A different sort of pilgrimage
A friend recommended this book when I was on a trip to Iona. It turns out to be not at all what I was expecting! Read more
Published 19 hours ago by Mrs. Jean Winn
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Item fine and timely with delivery
Published 1 day ago by Gerard Beeby
5.0 out of 5 stars sad, funny
Amazingly written, sad, funny, compelling, really enjoyed reading this book
Published 1 day ago by che aylward
5.0 out of 5 stars and I had heard such good things about it I really looked forward to...
The title made me want to read it, and I had heard such good things about it I really looked forward to it. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Nellie Cat 4
5.0 out of 5 stars loved
unusual story, very well written. loved it
Published 2 days ago by jules winter
5.0 out of 5 stars and I am so glad I did
This book was recomended to me by a friend and although I wasnt overly keen when I read the overview I decied to read it anyway; and I am so glad I did. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Chappo
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Read this.
Published 2 days ago by Indecision
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