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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A…

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2013)

by Rachel Joyce (Author)

Series: Harold Fry (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,3384191,925 (3.96)1 / 512
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.
Title:The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
Authors:Rachel Joyce (Author)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2013), Edition: 1, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

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

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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Brimming with quirky Britishness, these novels take on the transformative powers of doing something different. While the more humorous, satirical Uncommon Reader imagines the Queen as an increasingly sophisticated reader, the more reflective Unlikely Pilgrimage is moving and poignant.… (more)
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English (402)  Dutch (6)  German (5)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (421)
Showing 1-5 of 402 (next | show all)
A feel good story involving the review of a life lived and forgiving that was just a little too simple and obvious for my taste. ( )
  snash | Nov 9, 2020 |
I am hovering between a 3 and 4 star rating.

I read pretty much most of this book last night and finished it first thing this morning as I lay in bed. So yes, it's a quick and easy read. I was surprised to see it had been nominated for the Booker and not at all surprised that it hadn't won. Having said that, the novel has real page turning ability. However sickly sweet and trite I feared the novel may turn out to be, those fears were never really fully realised. At the point where I left off to go to sleep, I had a horrible feeling that the story was turning into some kind of Gumpish nonsense (I really have no time for that film...) but with a fresh desire to finish the book, that small hurdle was overcome and the book raced into its final third. This last hundred or so pages when we finally learn about the circumstances that caused Harold and Maureen to become estranged and those that lead to Queenie's abrupt disappearance are revealed had me in tears. And ultimately the ending was satisfactory.

All in all not high literature but a well-told story with some heart-warming observations. A page turner and a tear jerker.
  nick4998 | Oct 31, 2020 |
Apparently walking vast distances toward/away from self-discovery is a thing if 3 novels I've read in the last year are any indication. However, I am a sucker for underdogs and people who take off in new directions on questionable quests. Harold Fry receives an unexpected letter from the past: a former "friend"/colleague, Queenie Hennesy, is dying and has written to say goodbye. Harold, all buttoned-up British middle class retiree replies and walks his letter to the post and keeps on walking 500 miles -- deciding to see Queenie in person, redeem himself for behavior 20 years gone, and save her from her fatal cancer. It is hard to tell initially if Harold is doddering or dim or what, but as he walks and we journey with him, he becomes an unlikely hero. His wife Maureen is left behind to continue with her incessant household cleaning and grumbling and neighbor Rex moons about missing his recently deceased wife and Harold's perfunctory friendship, but all are in for a change. Initially an internal novel as Harold reviews his life, his frozen marriage and his failure to be a good father to David, especially in light of his own tragic childhood, it extends outward through the "characters" Harold meets. This keeps him walking. "They believed in him. They had looked at him in his yachting shoes, and listened to what he said, and they had made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and to imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious." (37) They also help him in concrete ways: food, lodging, understanding, medical treatment for his abused feet and he begins to see that everyone is wounded and has baggage. "There was so much out there, so much life, going about its daily business of getting by, of watching. Again, he felt in a profound way that he was both inside and outside what he saw; that he was both connected, and passing through. Harold began to understand that this was also the truth about his walk. He was both part of things and not. In order to succeed he must remain true to the feeling that had inspired him in the first place. It didn't matter that other people would do it in a different way; in fact this was inevitable...It was as much of a gift to receive as it was to give, requiring as it did both courage and humility." (201) Harold has quite a few detours and the book takes a big one when Harold's journey is co-opted by social media and additional pilgrims who begin to follow him. It becomes a funny commentary on "religion" and "belief" but in some ways was a bit of a distraction. Though tempted to take a ride or train, and almost ready to give up when he hits a dangerous rock bottom, Harold persists and succeeds in ways he wouldn't have imagined. The perambulatory nature of the journey is essential: "Maybe you saw even more than the land when you got out of the car and used your feet." (43) "Life was very different when you walked through it." (70) "He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others." (90) Sweet story about the need to connect below the surface and both accept and give kindness. Tear jerker ultimately! ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
Looking forward to book 2 ( )
  SleepyBooksandCakes | Aug 22, 2020 |
bei Friederike entdeckt und angefangen, von Daniel geliehen, berwiegend spannend zu lesen
  Klookschieter | Aug 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 402 (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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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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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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