Monday, 18 March 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Review by The Mole

Harold receives a letter from Queenie, a work colleague of many years ago, to say that she is dying in a hospice over 500 miles away and to say thank you for his kindness twenty years ago. Harold feels unable to express adequately in a letter the reply he wants to give but sets out to post a letter in reply. He keeps giving himself excuses not to post it yet but to go to the next post box. After a conversation with an assistant in a garage he decides to carry on his walk and go to Berwick-on-Tweed to speak to Queenie directly. After phoning the hospice and his wife he continues walking with only what he is wearing and carrying.

This book is one of those books that no two people read the same story in. I know that the version Maryom told me was not what I read and having heard Rachel Joyce read from it twice, once at Lowdham and once in Waterstones, it is not the book she read to me. At Waterstones people talked about their experience with the story and yet again it was not the story I read.

From the off I didn't like Harold Fry. He was a mouse of a man with no opinion of his own. I tend to refer to such people as 'acquiescent man' - he is what others expect him to be. Maureen was very different, a rather unpleasant character from the off with a foreboding of evil about her. What we learned of Queenie at the outset was not very endearing either. Having said all that I found I just had to keep reading - I was enjoying it despite the characters. Perhaps it was the hope that he would leave the old Harold Fry somewhere by the roadside and return home reformed and be able to make something of his marriage to Maureen.

As he meets new characters along the way I started to find characters I actually liked, the oncologist and Martina, characters who seemed properly connected with the world and who showed true compassion. And let's not forget Dog please!

The end started to feel like a French farce at times as secrets between Harold, Maureen and Queenie tumbled across the page - even the garage girl shared secrets. As for the ending? It was not the ending I hoped for but perhaps it's the most we could expect for as readers.

I did enjoy this book but if you are not looking for a book that will try to tug at your emotions - even if it's not always successful - and a book that will get you thinking about people then this isn't the book for you.

Publisher - Black Swan
Genre - Adult Fiction

Buy The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry from Amazon


  1. Everyone seems to love this one! I need to read it soon!

    1. It is, as you say, extremely popular and one that different people come away with a different feeling of. I find that a quality of a good book because it becomes 'yours' and you don't share it with others.