Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Thank you to Tessa at Transworld Publishers for the review copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which was sent in return for an honest review of the book.

"When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else's life."

This isn't the most believable story, but it was one that intrigued me.

Rachel Joyce doesn't hang about, but plunges straight into the storyline with Harold embarking on his walk in the first few pages.  Any "back story" to Harold and his life is discovered en route as he walks from his home in Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed, through Harold's memories.

I struggled for the first part of the book, as I constantly found myself wondering how someone walking from one end of the country to the other would be able to fill a whole book, but it does.  I also at times thought "why wouldn't he just get on a train?" But I guess that is the whole point of the book - he has to walk to "save Queenie".  Harold meets a whole host of people on his way, and he also untangles himself from the person he had become to remember the person he was, to remember the people he loves.  

Meanwhile, Harold's wife, left home alone with only her neighbour for company, has the same sort of realising experiences.

The whole point of his walk is to "save" Queenie's life. Yet, when he arrives in Berwick-upon-Tweed, there isn't much made of the event.  It comes and it goes; blink and you might miss it, which I found a little frustrating.

There also wasn't much mystery.  You didn't wonder if he'd had an affair with Queenie all those years ago, as he says it wasn't a romantic gesture.  It's a mystery why he feels compelled to walk all that way for this particular woman, but I found that I didn't find myself second guessing and therefore I didn't really care all that much.

As my mum said, it would have been much more interesting if he'd turned up at the hospice and his love child was sat waiting by Queenie's bed.

There was also part towards the end of the book where Harold was joined by other people on his walk.  I didn't like this bit, it left me frustrated and I wanted them to leave.

All that said, it sounds like I hated it.  I didn't - whilst some of it was a little repetitive, overall I did enjoy it and the ending was good.  If anything, I would have liked to have seen more of his relationship with his wife.  

Good, if you just want some light-reading.

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