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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry Paperback – 2 Jan 2013
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"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)
"At times almost unbearably moving." (Sunday Times)
"A brilliant and charming novel: full of comic panache yet acute and poignant." (Spectator)
"one of the most moving, uplifting, inspiring novels I've ever read" (Richard Madeley)
The critically acclaimed, Sunday Times and international bestseller, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2012: 'A magical, moving and uplifting tale about a man's journey across England and into his own heart.' - Deborah Moggach.
Rachel Joyce is the Specsavers National Book Awards New Writer of the Year 2012.
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Overall 5/5. (Plot 5/5, Characterisation 5/5, Literary Merit 4/5, Readability 5/5.)
It's written the way an art Western movie is shot, much silence and introspection, and as such trying to read it all in one or two sittings will only give you the husk of its meaning.
Peopled with characters who are relatable but not necessarily likeable, there are deeper truths discussed long before the full meaning is revealed.
This story follows Harold's impulsive journey from Kingston to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the hope of saving his friend from cancer. You can predict from the beginning that, unfortunately, that won't happen but the story runs much deeper than our Hero being out to save someone's life. It's as much a focus on Harold's and his wife's Maureen's relationship and the troubles of their marriage than the journey itself. The struggles of his journey conjure up memories that he had otherwise repressed a long time ago, leaving him to deeply think about what he has made of his life up until now. His journey also leads to his wife doing the same. He has many ups and downs throughout, which makes the journey all the more powerful. Some people would complain at that but if you're thinking that you wouldn't act as Harold would in the story, try doing your own walk, you may be surprised by how similar the outcome would be. Especially if you had no training like Harold.
The only issue I had was when word traveled of what Harold was doing and others joined him and ended up taking the glory for themselves but in reality, that undoubtedly would've happened anyway, so that was just one annoying concept of human behaviour right there. It was more the fact that "glory of accomplishment" was introduced into the story more than the characters themselves just being human.
It ended as I wanted it to end. I expected nothing different.
I've read reviews about it being simplistic and that all he does is just travel throughout the entire book... Well that's the point of it. If you choose to read it expecting something different, then you'd be wrong. The story gets it's high reviews for it's emotional detailing, not it's basic idea of a man traveling across the country to save a friend's life. A lot of people seem to have gotten the wrong idea. It's a very thought provoking novel that leaves you asking yourself a lot of your own questions of what your life has been like up until this point. If you don't like that idea, then don't read it. It's that simple.
Queenie is dying from inoperable cancer and his written to Harold to thank him for his friendship and to say goodbye.
Unsure how to respond, Harold writes an ineffectual reply that he takes to the post box but does not post. Instead, he finds himself compelled to to walk to the next post box and then the next, until he finds himself at a garage and an encounter with the checkout girl sets him off on his ‘pilgrimage’. His spontaneous decision is the start of a 600 mile walk to Berwick-on-Tweed to say goodbye to Queenie in person.
The journey that follows is expertly written in simple, light prose and its simplicity can take your breath away. Yet it’s that very simplicity that also slightly undermines the weight of some of the issues dealt with in the book. Swinging from light humour to dark despair, Harold’s journey and the people he meets are all crafted with such clarity that it appears at times more than fiction. While walking, Harold reflects on his life and his broken marriage with his wife Maureen, who has been left behind wondering if he will ever return.
Harold questions the mistakes he’s made, in particular his inability to be a father to their apparently estranged son David. His memories of failing to engage with David as a child are heartbreaking.
Despite it being a light read, I was very moved by this novel. Harold may be an ordinary every-man, but his pain is clearly drawn and I related to his regrets. He is all of us and anyone can find some aspect of their own life in him.
I really enjoyed this book: it made me laugh and cry in equal measure and despite some of its dark admissions, it is ultimately hopeful. Rachel Joyce has great faith in the human spirit and great faith in Harold. Perhaps if all us took a similar pilgrimage, we might become more aware of what it really means to be human.
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