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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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Interwoven into this journey is Harold's reflections on his estranged marriage to Maureen, and the tenuous relationship with his son David, whom Maureen confides in, when her discovery that her husband has embarked on this ridiculous pilgrimage turns from bewilderment, to anger and despair. An unintended consequence of all that time in the wide open country as he treks treacherously by the side of motorways is the opportunity for Harold to confront and wrestle with the ghosts of his past.
Joyce paints a rather poignant picture of Harold, and shows his struggles when the normally reticent man has to explain his quest to complete strangers: "He took a deep breath. If he heard the sound of words coming from his mouth enough times, maybe he would feel like the sort of person who could get up and do something about them." The failure of communication in his marriage is also rather efficiently summed up in these lines : "Sometimes her words sliced down on his before they had even reached his mouth."
Harold the child had also had to deal with disapproval from the string of aunts his father takes up with when Harold's mother abandoned them: "'He's awfully tall,' his Aunty May had said of him once, as if this was something you could rectify, like a leaking tap."
Not only is her desription of characters sharp and insightful, Joyce is a skilful writer who comes up with such beautiful lines of prose, you just want to read them over and over again, like this afternoon scene just after heavy rain: "To the east, the cloud tore open and a low belt of polished silver light broke through. Harold stood and watched as the mass of grey split again and again, revealing new colours: blue, burnt amber, peach, green and crimson. Then the cloud became suffused with a dulled pink, as if those vibrant colours had bled through, merging as they met. He couldn't move. He wanted to witness every change. The light on the land was gold; even his skin was warm with it. At his feet the earth creaked and whispered. The air smelt green and full of beginnings. A soft mist rose, like wisps of smoke." The reader's senses are totally engaged in the picture Joyce paints.
Such beautiful, and at times heartwrenching prose would be pointless without a compelling story. Joyce has achieved that rare feat of meeting both criteria. At the end of the day, it is the pronouncement: "But maybe it's what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith", that makes this tale such a powerful one.
It touches all of your senses and more, without being all mushy - trust me, I don't 'do' sentimental stories.
I admit I had my reservations because of the general hype and the genre itself. But mainly due to the nagging doubt of how someone could write a story about a retired gent walking from South Devon to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and make that even remotely interesting? Well, they did, and they did it REALLY well.
If you like A Man Called Ove, you'll love this and vice-versa. Highly recommended.
PS. To expand this story further I read the follow up book The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey - although this has similar elements and it's pretty good, I found it a little depressing and it didn't hold my attention as much as 'Harold Fry'.
In the final few chapters, even the most hard hearted reader, will be moved as Harold's journey comes to an end.
I will miss Queenie, Harold, Maureen and David and it will be a book that I will never put in the charity bag....somethings tells me that I will revisiting these characters in the future.
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The characters felt real, the areas <i>were</i> real and there...Read more