Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is not a book I would usually pick up but having had it recommended as a good read I thought I would give it a go. Harold Fry is an unremarkable man. Recently retired he lives in the south of England in a small village with his wife who seems endlessly annoyed with everything he does. One morning a letter arrives for Harold from an old friend. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and has written to Harold to say goodbye. On the way to post his reply letter Harold has an encounter with a young woman about the power of hope and is inspired to walk the length of England to deliver his letter in person and ultimately help save Queenie's life.

As Harold is walking the length of the country he has many opportunities to reflect on his life and the relationships that have not panned out quite as he would like. Harold's marriage to Maureen has disintegrated and he has a lot of regrets about raising their son David. What I found at the heart of this book was the power of hope and of self belief, two things that to begin with Harold is very much lacking.

The thing about this book is that like Harold Fry it was a little bit unremarkable. Not the actual story line but there were times where I definitely felt a bit bored by both Harold and the encounters on his journey. I neither loved nor hated it which makes thinking about any sort of emotional response somewhat difficult. I think a story like this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea as it does have great reviews elsewhere. It wasn't until I got about three quarters of the way through that I found invested in the storyline, mainly to see how Harold's relationship with his wife would develop. There were also hints at the man that Harold used to be, during the days when he worked with Queenie and the relationship with his son David is not explained in full until the very end.

I guess in a lot of ways I would describe this as a subtle book and a small story. It's not going to set your world on fire but I'm sure some people will enjoy Harold's journey of hope. It did remind me a little bit of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand which also features a man in retirement taking on a new lease of life. If you enjoyed that than definitely give Harold Fry's journey a go but unfortunately for me I just wasn't fussed.

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