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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry (2012)

by Rachel Joyce

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Harold Fry (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,2774141,880 (3.97)1 / 510
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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English (397)  Dutch (6)  German (5)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (416)
Showing 1-5 of 397 (next | show all)
Starts - not light - but positive, maybe wholesome, maybe upbeat. Ups and downs, then turns v depressing, then ends on a positive but kinda lackluster note. ( )
  IridescenceDeep | Jun 28, 2020 |
I suppose we all rate books based on what we're going through in our own lives, and that's probably why I'm giving Harold 4 stars now. There were many bits of wisdom I gained from this book and sometimes the bits were melancholy. We're all carrying some sadness, each of us. But we're each of us survivors too. Thank you Harold for reminding me of that. Delightful book- I read it with an English accent in my brain and found it quite enjoyable. ( )
  gakgakg | May 28, 2020 |
I didn't finish the book. It was for book club. ( )
  mirihawk | May 21, 2020 |
Eigentlich wollte er nur zum Briefkasten. Dann geht er 1000 Kilometer zu Fuß.
Ein unvergesslicher Roman, der die ganze Welt erobert.

»Ich bin auf dem Weg. Du musst nur durchhalten. Ich werde Dich retten, Du wirst schon sehen. Ich werde laufen, und Du wirst leben.«

Harold Fry will nur kurz einen Brief einwerfen an seine frühere Kollegin Queenie Hennessy, die im Sterben liegt. Doch dann läuft er am Briefkasten vorbei und auch am Postamt, aus der Stadt hinaus und immer weiter, 87 Tage, 1000 Kilometer. Zu Fuß von Südengland bis an die schottische Grenze zu Queenies Hospiz. Eine Reise, die er jeden Tag neu beginnen muss. Für Queenie. Für seine Frau Maureen. Für seinen Sohn David. Für sich selbst. Und für uns alle.

Ein ganz außergewöhnlicher und tief berührender Roman – über Geheimnisse, besondere Momente und zufällige Begegnungen, die uns von Grund auf verändern. Über Tapferkeit und Betrug, Liebe und Loyalität und ein ganz unscheinbares Paar Segelschuhe.
  Fredo68 | May 18, 2020 |
“He hunched his shoulders and drove his feet harder, as if he wasn’t so much walking to Queenie as away from himself.”

Newly retired pensioner Harold Fry receives a letter from an old friend and colleague, Queenie Hennessy. She is living in a hospice and dying of cancer. Her letter says her goodbyes and thanked him for his kindness and friendship. Initially simply saddened, Harold scribbles a brief note in response and proceeds to walk to the corner mailbox to drop it off. Instead, he finds himself walking farther to the next and the next mailbox, as though a few more steps of effort on his part will make his short note more meaningful. Soon, inspired by the clerk at a garage (i.e. gas station), Harold finds himself on a journey far beyond anything he has done in his entire life – to deliver the letter to Queenie in person, 600 miles away, on foot. He meets numerous people despite wanting to maintain his distance; some were sources of strength, others of agony. Slowly, we learn of his present - his tense relationship at home with his wife Maureen and their son, David, with whom he hasn’t spoken with for 20 years, and his past – his work and his friendship with Queenie. By the end, we learn the truths.

It's no surprise that this book is written to be heart-warming with a touch of shock. Harold is earnest, not overtly lovable, but certainly someone you would root for. He’s attempting this 600-miles walk, and he’s re-discovering his past, sometimes agonizingly so. Maureen, left behind by her husband, is also on her own journey – mentally and sometimes physically digging herself out of her angst and accusations. They are on a parallel journey of healing, rediscovery, and reconciliation. Some bits of the book were predictable, especially the large group of people who also wanted to do this walk with Harold, i.e. Forrest Gump. The big reveal was abrupt, quite literally spelled out for the reader as if to make sure you get it. That was unimaginative writing. Some of the supposed drama Joyce were building up wasn’t much drama, either. No pun intended, but I enjoyed the journey more than the destination, even though it was what I wanted/expected.

Some quotes:
On Gifts:
“The kindness of the woman with food came back to him, and that of Martina. They had offered him comfort and shelter, even when he was afraid of taking them, and in accepting he had learned something new. It was as much of a gift to receive as it was to give, requiring as it did both courage and humility…”

On Strangers:
“…He described the people he had met, and how they had fed him or repaired his shoes; even the addicts, drunks, and dropouts. ‘Nobody is so frightening once you stop and listen, Maureen.’…”

On Love at First Sight:
“A memory came of the night all those years ago, when Harold had danced and spotted Maureen watching him across the crowd. He remembered how it felt to fling his arms and legs, as if shaking off all that had come before, while witnessed by such a beautiful young woman. Emboldened, he had danced more, even more crazily, feet kicking the air, hands like slippery eels. He had stopped and checked again. She was still watching. This time she had caught his eye and laughed. She was so full of it, her should shaking, her hair slipping over her face, that for the first occasion in his life he had not been able to resist the temptation to stride through a crowd and touch a stranger. Beneath her velvet hair, the cushion of skin was pale and soft. She had not flinched. ‘Hello, you,’ he had said. His childhood was shorn away and there was nothing but himself and her. He knew that whatever happened next, their paths were links. He would do anything for her. Remembering, Harold was filled with lightness, as if he were warm again, somewhere deep inside.” ( )
1 vote varwenea | May 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 397 (next | show all)
That marvelous note of absurdity tempers the pain that runs beneath this whole novel. Joyce has no interest in mocking Harold; she just describes his quixotic trek in a gentle, matter-of-fact voice, mile after mile. At 65, he’s never walked farther than his own driveway. He has no map, cellphone or change of clothes, and his thin yachting shoes couldn’t be less appropriate for such a journey across England. “Harold would have been the first to admit that there were elements to his plan that were not finely tuned,” Joyce writes. But when the idea of saving Queenie blooms in the fallow soil of his mind, he can’t be stopped. “I will keep walking,” he declares, “and she must keep living.”
added by danielx | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Jul 6, 2014)
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

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rachel Joyceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Andreas, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Andreas-Hoole, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Broadbent, JimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AndrewIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwart, JannekeTranslatorsecondary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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
I'm just popping out
To post this letter, dear! Next
Stop: Berwick on Tweed ...

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