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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Rachel Joyce

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,1662493,001 (3.98)1 / 325
Member:oldblack
Title:The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Authors:Rachel Joyce
Info:Doubleday Books (2012), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:walking, grief, marriage, relationships, fathers and sons, death, dying

Work details

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

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English (243)  Spanish (5)  German (4)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (256)
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)
I really liked this one. As Harold travels to see his old friend Queenie he discovers alot about himself and his past. Convinced that as long as he is walking, Queenie will wait for him. When the book begins, we know little about harold, Queenie, and their connection with the exception that she is dying and he has wronged her somehow in the past. While usually I find not being let in on the whole story annoying, it is not so in this book. Joyce reveals little details about Harold and his life at just the right times. She waits until you are rooting for Harold before sharing his secrets. Along the road Harold meets people that contribute to his pilgrimage and people that take away from it. Either way they contribute to reshaping Harold's life. The only thing that kept this book from being 5 stars is that I was dissapointed in the ending. It is a quick read that is full of words of wisdom that you will find yourself jotting down. ( )
  MaryBeth9476 | Jul 8, 2014 |
A moral tale set in contemporary England. One man walks out to post a letter and decides to continue to Berwick-on-Tweed from the south coast. The reader never discover how Queenie, who is in a hospice in Berwick-on-Tweed got to be there. Harold Fry is not a walker and he does not have the experience or suitable equipment. The novel is about his journey in his head and on the ground and the journey of his wife Maureen. The messages includes; walking is good for the soul; live one day at a time; friends are good; love is everything; laughing is good; talking is very important.
Harold and Maureen are two people hurting and looking for a way to come back together. An engrossing and lovely read. ( )
  Tifi | Jun 29, 2014 |
Great story that is creatively written. The descriptions are wonderful and easily imagined. Harold's pilgrimage is one filled with beauty, insight, lessons learned, memories both tragic and joyous. Perhaps most importantly, Harold finds forgiveness within himself and is able to let go of painful memories and cherish loved ones and memories that had long been forgotten. There are powerful messages in this one. Like Harold, I came away from this one with important knowledge of my own. This was a lovely read. ( )
  MaryEvelynLS | Jun 1, 2014 |
I got this book largely because it was recommended on the basis that I had liked The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared but don’t really see much similarity between them.

However, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a good book in it’s own way. There is humour in it but it is both subtle and dark. Harold himself is a likeable character, if a little insignificant to begin with and the reader quickly becomes attached to him.

The back story of Harold and his wife, Maureen, is drip fed to us as we begin first to get to know them (we think) and then reassess them before their character develops further so that we see them in a different light again.

Indeed, this book is very much one of character development and relationship study, although that is not to detract from the premise of the story which is both interesting and unusual but I think it is fair to say that it would not be a good choice for lovers of action packed adventure. ( )
  Mary.Moore | May 19, 2014 |
Harold Fry is a sweet character! I loved getting to know him and getting to take a pilgrimage with him. There were twists and turns along the way to keep it all interesting. ( )
  ElizabethBevins | May 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)
Ultimately, the success of Joyce's writing depends less on the credibility (or otherwise) of what actually happens, so much as her unerring ability to convey profound emotions in simple, unaffected language. Here, for example, is Harold contemplating the gulf that opened up between himself and his wife following the birth of their son: "It both deepened his love for her and lifted her apart, so that just at the moment when he thought their marriage would intensify, it seemed to lose its way, or at least set them in different places."

And, appropriately for a novel inspired by loss, it contains a brilliant summation of grief – not expressed by Harold, but by his neighbour Rex (Bunyan called him Plausible), who is gradually coming to terms with the death of his wife: "I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. the only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It's like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it's there and keep falling in. After a while, it's still there, but you learn to walk round it."

Joyce's novel is prone to sentimentality, while the overpoweringly good intentions of its hero can seem a little pious. But there's no doubt that it's an original, quietly courageous testament to the inhuman effort of being normal.
 
Very rarely, you come upon a novel that feels less like a book than a poignant passage of your own life, and the protagonist like an acquaintance who has gently corrected your path. Never mind that the protagonist possesses all the realism of a painted clown and his tale the moral fibre of a fable.

Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry starts off in just this way. A rumpled retiree determines to walk 500 miles, believing his hope-filled steps will keep his dying friend alive. The premise seems quaint and predictable, but morphs gracefully into a smart, subtle, funny, painful, weirdly personal novel.
 
The unlikely but lovable hero of Rachel Joyce's remarkable debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, doesn't call his walk a pilgrimage. He never even calls it a hike, which would suggest planning, a map and hiking boots, all of which Harold lacks....Pilgrimage, one of the 12 novels just long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Britain's top literary award, is a gentle adventure with an emotional wallop. It's a smart, feel-good story that doesn't feel forced.
 
“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” is not just a book about lost love. It is about all the wonderful everyday things Harold discovers through the mere process of putting one foot in front of the other. “The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other,” ........The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” takes its opening epigraph from John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It takes the stirring spirituality of its ending from Bunyan too. In between Ms. Joyce’s book loosely parallels “The Pilgrim’s Progress” at times, but it is very much a story of present-day courage. She writes about how easily a mousy, domesticated man can get lost and how joyously he can be refound.
 
Joyce slowly reveals what he has to walk away from, and there are some surprises. His progress is measured in memories as well as miles; memories of parents who didn’t want him, and of the early days of his marriage and his only son David’s childhood. There are a few lapses in the story—events and characters that come along at convenient moments—but Joyce captures Harold’s emotions with a tidiness of words that is at times thrilling. It’s a trip worth taking.
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rachel Joyceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Broadbent, JimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AndrewIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be
Come wind, come weather.
There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress
Dedication
For Paul, who walks with me, and for my father,
Martin Joyce (1936-2005)
First words
The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.
Quotations
He fell silent, and so did Martina. He felt safe with what he had confided. It had been the same with Queenie. You can say things in the car and know she had tucked them somewhere safe among her thoughts, and that she would not judge him for them, or hold it against him in years to come. He supposed that was what friendship was, and regretted all the years he had spent without it.
He had learned it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.
He watched the squares of buttery light inside the houses, and people going about their business. He thought of how they would settle in their beds and try to sleep through their dreams. It struck him again how much he cared, and how relieved he was that they were somehow safe and warm, while he was free to keep walking. After all, it had always been this way; that he was a little apart.
If he kept looking at the things that were bigger than himself, he knew he would make it to Berwick.
You could think you were starting something afresh, when actually what you were doing was carrying on as before. He had faced his shortcomings and overcome them, and so the real business of walking was happening only now.
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Book description
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812993292, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: Harold Fry--retired sales rep, beleaguered husband, passive observer of his own life--decides one morning to walk 600 miles across England to save an old friend. It might not work, mind you, but that's hardly the point. In playwright Rachel Joyce's pitch-perfect first novel, Harold wins us over with his classic antiheroism. Setting off on the long journey, he wears the wrong jacket, doesn't have a toothbrush, and leaves his phone at home--in short, he is wholly, endearingly unprepared. But as he travels, Harold finally has time to reflect on his failings as a husband, father, and friend, and this helps him become someone we (and, more important, his wife Maureen) can respect. After walking for a while in Harold Fry's very human shoes, you might find that your own fit a bit better. --Mia Lipman

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:36 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

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