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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A…

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

by Rachel Joyce

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2,0182413,297 (3.99)1 / 314
Title:The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
Authors:Rachel Joyce
Info:Random House (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2012
Tags:Marriage, England

Work details

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

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English (235)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (247)
Showing 1-5 of 235 (next | show all)
Lovely, melancholy, thoughtful novel. This was definitely not a happy story, and yet I didn't feel deflated as I reached the end. While it was obviously the story of Harold's journey, I think Maureen's pilgrimage was actually the more affecting, for me. The idea of choosing to acknowledge the mistakes you have made and purpose to make you life better is something everyone has to struggle with, at some point in their life, and it's a hard thing to choose to make that change. I thought Haarold and Maureen's re-awakening relationship was a beautiful love story. I really, really enjoyed this novel. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | Apr 12, 2014 |
Rachel Joyce has written a novel which, despite its improbable premise, quickly gathers the reader into a story both uplifting and shattering. On its most basic level The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is about a man who receives news of an old friend who is dying, and decides upon a whim to walk a ridiculous distance to visit her on her death bed, and thereby keep her alive just a little longer.

What starts out as a whim and ill-considered journey quickly becomes a pilgrimage in the truest meaning of the word, visited by physical, moral and spiritual pain; by travellers seeking solidarity, redemption and notoriety; and in the end by a very private journey into the depths of Harold's personal inferno.

Joyce crafts this story with simple elegance, employing a witty, unpretentious style which is highly readable, utterly captivating. Her characterization reveals an insightful understanding of human motivation and foibles.

For the tender of heart, like me, you will weep, you will laugh, and in the end close the cover of the book somehow edified and transmuted. Which is what the best storytellers cause to occur. ( )
  fiverivers | Mar 23, 2014 |
This was a touching story about an old man who lost it all (although he never really had it to begin with) and got it all back by opening up and actually living his life. Harold and his wife Maureen have been unhappily married for many years; they hardly speak, sleep in separate bedrooms, and do their best to stay out of each others way. That all changes one morning when Harold receives a letter from Queenie, an old friend. He hasn't spoken to hear in nearly 20 years and is dumbstruck to discover that she has inoperable cancer. Desperate to right his wrongs he writes a letter to Queenie but soon realizes it's not enough. On his way to mail the letter, he decides to keep walking. He will walk over 500 miles to save Queenie and do something with his life. Armed with nothing but his wallet and yachting shoes he sets off across England in this funny and moving novel about life un-lived, forgiveness, and redemption. ( )
  ecataldi | Mar 12, 2014 |
Harold Frye goes out to the mailbox to send a get well letter to a former co-worker who he just learned is dying of cancer. Before he mails the letter, he decides that he really needs to see Queenie before she dies, so he calls the hospice to tell Queenie to wait for him and calls his wife to say he's walking 600 miles to the see Queenie, and sets off with just the clothes on his back.

Along the way, Harold ruminates on his life and relationships, working through a painful past. His wife, devastated and thinking she's been left for another woman, reviews her marriage to decide if she should fight to keep it or just try to avoid being embarrassed in public. People take notice and Harold has many unintentional adventures.

Harold's long walk reminded me of the part of Forrest Gump where Forrest runs cross country as a way to work through the pain when Jenny doesn't return his romantic love.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye is a good character study due to the intense scrutiny of Harold and Maureen's lives, emotions and relationships. ( )
  bohemiangirl35 | Mar 7, 2014 |
Wonderful, sweet story of Harold Fry who leaves on a walk from southern to northern England in order to see a woman who is dying of cancer. Lovely prose, sensitive characterizations of damaged people, and compelling plot emphasize themes of simplification, forgiveness, and redemption. ( )
  kr04bps | Mar 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 235 (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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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
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.
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.
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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)

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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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