The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

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.--worldcat...

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Title:The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author:Rachel Joyce
Rating:
ISBN:0812993292
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:320 pages

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Reviews

  • Jennifer
    Jun 02, 2012

    stil mulling this one. sometimes i really liked it and other moments i was...a little bored. there was definitely an overuse of "put one foot in front of the other" that verged on becoming a drinking game. the premise of the story is lovely but it did get a bit schlocky and mitch albom-y for my tastes. mentions of both facebook and twitter in the book were curious.

    edited to add (pasted in from my comment below, in case people don't read the comments here):

    you know, the further i get from reading

    stil mulling this one. sometimes i really liked it and other moments i was...a little bored. there was definitely an overuse of "put one foot in front of the other" that verged on becoming a drinking game. the premise of the story is lovely but it did get a bit schlocky and mitch albom-y for my tastes. mentions of both facebook and twitter in the book were curious.

    edited to add (pasted in from my comment below, in case people don't read the comments here):

    you know, the further i get from reading this book, the more it is sitting with me in a way that is far deeper than i originally stated. it's an introspective story and deals with a lot of issues quietly - but i have been thinking about the story off and on for the last several days. i think it would make for a really good in-person book club discussion.

    i had the chance to meet joyce and hear her read and talk about the book. she's a lovely woman and believes so strongly in harold that you can't help but wish the very best for both of them.

    as far as the booker: it would be very interesting if she/it won. it's not the typical book for booker - it's a simple & sentimental story. but, it's touching a chord with many, many people. that shouldn't sway the judges though. it's a tremendous achievement to have accomplished a longlist spot with a first novel. amazing!!

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    Jul 06, 2012

    I fear I am heartless.

    Some people I respect as readers give this book five stars and I just can't.

    Basically, it is about a man taking a walk. Beginning, middle, end. He gets bad news about an old friend and just starts walking, wearing the wrong kind of shoes and without bringing his 'mobile.'

    Most of the book is about regret and finding his way back to what matters. So, I get that, but it didn't poke through my tough exterior, I guess. You have my permission to call me heartless.

    I listened to t

    I fear I am heartless.

    Some people I respect as readers give this book five stars and I just can't.

    Basically, it is about a man taking a walk. Beginning, middle, end. He gets bad news about an old friend and just starts walking, wearing the wrong kind of shoes and without bringing his 'mobile.'

    Most of the book is about regret and finding his way back to what matters. So, I get that, but it didn't poke through my tough exterior, I guess. You have my permission to call me heartless.

    I listened to the audio, which may be partly to blame for the plodding pace to the book. Still, Jim Broadbent was a great reader. I shall have to try to find him reading something else!

    This book was on the longlist for the Booker, but didn't make the shortlist. One book that did is also about a walk, but has far more complexity and emotional range. I'd recommend it entirely. (

    )

    I'm noticing that lately, books about humdrummity are really getting to me. I need some profundity and depth, or lacking that, some interesting characters with interesting lives.

    Some of Harold's observations:

    "Life was very different when you walked through it."

    "Life is made up of people putting one foot in front of the other."

    "Nobody's frightening, if you stop and listen."

  • Michael
    Jul 13, 2012

    Harold Fry has never done the unexpected, having spent the last 65 years living a quiet sheltered life. Retired for the last six months Harold shaves each morning and puts on a tie only to sit in the same chair with nowhere to go as his wife Maureen silently cleans. One day he recieves a letter from an woman from his past who informs him she is dying. Harold pens his reply only to be disappointed by his response so he makes a snap decision to walk across England from Kingsbridge to Berwick Upton

    Harold Fry has never done the unexpected, having spent the last 65 years living a quiet sheltered life. Retired for the last six months Harold shaves each morning and puts on a tie only to sit in the same chair with nowhere to go as his wife Maureen silently cleans. One day he recieves a letter from an woman from his past who informs him she is dying. Harold pens his reply only to be disappointed by his response so he makes a snap decision to walk across England from Kingsbridge to Berwick Upton Tweed to save her.

    With nothing but the clothes he is wearing and the small supplies he buys along the way Harold slowly makes his way across the country. Along the way Harold will initially be critical of himself as he sees himself alone in the world thanks to uncertainty that he had all throughout his life from a young boy, a father to David and then with a wife he no longer communicates with. It's only when he begins going out of his comfort zone by talking to others along the way that he soon discovers the sad and beautiful truth that he is not alone and there are many people just like him that are struggling to put one foot infront of the other.

    But for all the profound sorrow Harold encounters this is not a sad read. Rather it suggest that new beginnings can always be found and it is never to late to do something extroidinary. British playwright Rachel Joyces first novel is an endearing debut full of emotion. I found myself riding all the emotions with Harold and was willing him on all the way. At the heart of this is a story of a simple man, a threadbare marriage and a fractured country. All of this makes for an unforgettable and thoughtful story. Do yourself a favour and take a walk with Harold a simple man who will get into your heart and leave you with a smile from ear to ear.

  • Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    Jul 25, 2012

    The Harold Fry that leaves to mail a letter to his dying friend is drained by life, full of self-loathing and incapable of mending his ruined marriage.

    He just keeps walking in the belief that his journey will save her life. I wanted to shout “keep going Harold!”, to remind him of the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ because Harold’s journey was testament to its truth.

    The Harold Fry that leaves to mail a letter to his dying friend is drained by life, full of self-loathing and incapable of mending his ruined marriage.

    He just keeps walking in the belief that his journey will save her life. I wanted to shout “keep going Harold!”, to remind him of the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ because Harold’s journey was testament to its truth.

  • Lynne Spreen
    Sep 23, 2012

    I just finished this lovely book, and I'm never going to forget it. To those who say nobody wants to read about "old people", I'd say, read this book. The fact is, as long as you're alive, you should be open to growth and change, right? But how many of us stop growing after middle age? We find a formula that works and we stick with it, missing opportunities to experience joyous awakening. Maybe we start saying things like, "I'm too old to do X any more." And we shut down, close off. We fail to n

    I just finished this lovely book, and I'm never going to forget it. To those who say nobody wants to read about "old people", I'd say, read this book. The fact is, as long as you're alive, you should be open to growth and change, right? But how many of us stop growing after middle age? We find a formula that works and we stick with it, missing opportunities to experience joyous awakening. Maybe we start saying things like, "I'm too old to do X any more." And we shut down, close off. We fail to notice the continuing wonder and miracle of life.

    In this story, a couple in their 60s have made their peace, of sorts, following a horrific event in middle age. They live together, married in name only, settling for having another person in proximity (to take out the trash. To do the laundry. She snaps at him, he looks away.) The author conveys emotion so skillfully, not overwriting by one syllable.

    Then, something happens, and the husband, Harold, begins a journey both mental and actual - he sets off on a walk from the south of Great Britain to a point 500 miles north. I won't tell you if he makes it or what happens, but I will say that the story was so good, I put it in a class with Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. This author, Rachel Joyce, has achieved this miracle: she describes the sweetness and difficulty of life in such a way that you can't separate the two, and are a better person for having realized this fact.

    Many thanks to Ms. Joyce for this winner.

  • Richard Derus
    Oct 18, 2012

    Three star review has moved to

    But really, there are better ways to spend your eyeblinks than reading this mawkish treacle.

  • Alison
    Nov 21, 2012

    "

    ."

    I just finished this book on New Year's Eve, and I'm so happy I did, because this is a book about new beginnings, even the ones begun in the twilight of our lives.

    I have to begin by being perfectly honest which is, I feel, not only in keeping with the spirit of this book, but also the way that Harold would have wanted it. I feel like a

    "

    ."

    I just finished this book on New Year's Eve, and I'm so happy I did, because this is a book about new beginnings, even the ones begun in the twilight of our lives.

    I have to begin by being perfectly honest which is, I feel, not only in keeping with the spirit of this book, but also the way that Harold would have wanted it. I feel like after what he's been through and having proved himself to be more than ordinarily resilient, that Harold can take the truth.

    For a while this book really irritated me. It wasn't that I found the characters unbelievable--I actually found them all to be very real and human. It wasn't the setting, the writing, or the pacing of the story-telling. It was the actual walking, or, as the title calls it--the pilgrimage.

    For the longest time I just didn't understand why Harold didn't hitch a ride, take a bus, hop a train or even get on a horse. The walk to me seemed impractible, unfeasible, and completely unrealistic. It seemed like a mere plot gimmick--hey! I'll write a book about a guy who decides to walk.

    Another image I couldn't get out of my head as much as I wanted to (once I had thought of it it was just THERE--like a gnawing little itch) was that of another walking (running, actually) literary/film character...Forest Gump. I just kept thinking...this story has been told before...we've seen this. He just starts walking and he doesn't stop. People join in along the way. He becomes famous. He runs, and it isn't about the destination, it's about the journey. Been there, seen that.

    But somewhere toward the end, this author really pulled this story together for me. There is an effective twist, that was the most heartbreaking part of the story for me, that made me realize Harold had been through circumstances that might render a man quite mad...mad enough to start walking and not stop, and all of a sudden his walk became a lot more understandable and a lot more feasible.

    I also came to better terms with the metaphorical ramifications of Harold's walk and I quit being so dang literal and worrying about Harold sleeping out on the highway with the foxes without bathing, and I started looking more inward to Harold and his tortured soul.

    Harold's interaction with Queenie, near the end, is one of the most chilling encounters I have read in fiction. But it was so real, and so true, and so meaningful, I fell for the book all at once, right there at its very close.

    So if someone asked me what I liked about Harold Frye doing all that walking or what I got from reading about Harold and the circumstances that shaped him until he finally was able to throw them all off there on the side of England's highways...I would first say that I think the author meant for us to realize how we all carry our own particular burdens. That is rather obvious in the characters that Harold encounters and how they had their own unique crosses to bear.

    "

    ."

    But I would also say that I was reminded that it's never too late to start over. That we all have to come face to face with our ghosts, and that doesn't happen on our own time. It happens on it's on natural course undetermined by us (much like all aspects of our lives). I am reminded of the courage it takes to face our demons, and how we cannot begin to live fully, openly, or honestly until we have looked them dead in the eyes, no matter how difficult or implausible the journey is that takes us to meet them.

  • Isabelle
    Jan 21, 2013

    I have just browsed through a bunch of reviews that are literally glowing with praise, so I feel rather embarrassed that I cannot be more enthused about this novel.

    I was really taken in by the premise and rather enjoyed the beginning of the book, probably until celebrity, hype and disciples befall Harold.

    From that point on, I started to find the book predictable, if not a little trite even. I also think that while I have nothing against a good dose of pathos, this may have bordered on the overdo

    I have just browsed through a bunch of reviews that are literally glowing with praise, so I feel rather embarrassed that I cannot be more enthused about this novel.

    I was really taken in by the premise and rather enjoyed the beginning of the book, probably until celebrity, hype and disciples befall Harold.

    From that point on, I started to find the book predictable, if not a little trite even. I also think that while I have nothing against a good dose of pathos, this may have bordered on the overdose. I am very sorry I feel this way, but I do, but I do...

  • B the BookAddict
    May 28, 2013

    What to say about

    ; a lovely read, a phenomenal book, exceptional and captivating. How I lingered over this book; read it slowly to truly savour and appreciate the story. The author doesn't try to impress you with pretentious words nor does she bamboozle you with a convoluted plot. It's an unembellished story. The 'hero' is not good-looking or rich; he's a simple man who embarks on the journey of a lifetime. I loved the absolute clarity of foresight into the

    What to say about

    ; a lovely read, a phenomenal book, exceptional and captivating. How I lingered over this book; read it slowly to truly savour and appreciate the story. The author doesn't try to impress you with pretentious words nor does she bamboozle you with a convoluted plot. It's an unembellished story. The 'hero' is not good-looking or rich; he's a simple man who embarks on the journey of a lifetime. I loved the absolute clarity of foresight into the mind and heart of a very ordinary man.

    Harold is an unobtrusive, tentative and unassuming person; he has been that way all his life. Now in his 60's, he is filled with regret; feels loss about situations he is no longer able to change. Since his retirement a few months prior, he has done virtually nothing but sit, much to the chagrin of his wife Maureen. Harold and Maureen's relationship has, over time, become one of simply sharing a house; rarely speaking and no longer even sharing a bed. The portrayal of their life together filled me with sorrow; two people in their 60's living together but each in a terrible aloneness.

    One ordinary day, he receives a letter from an old work colleague, Queenie, who is in a hospice. He sets off to post his reply but upon reaching the post box, realises that a letter is simply not enough. Queenie has been a friend, someone who stood up in defence of him; Harold feels that as Queenie had once 'saved' him, now he will save her.

    So he decides to walk to visit Queenie. It is indeed a pilgrimage; a walk of faith. He truly believes with all his heart and soul that his walking will save her. Each day he walks will be one day longer that she lives. I've been in Harold's position albeit with a loved one but I didn't walk; I cleaned. So I understand Harold's mission. I know just where he is coming from. The belief Harold has in his walk is infectious; as I read on, I found a little voice in my head saying in my head: 'I hope she lives, I hope she lives' .

    Although his walk is basically a solitary one, he has some, mostly, wonderful encounters with strangers. He feels their tenderness towards him and as he realises

    . For the first time,

    . But a solitary walk from one end of England to the other gives much time for retrospect. There are contemplations on his life with Maureen, painful reflections on his relationship with their son David and of course thoughts of Queenie. And, with no intent on his behalf, he becomes a minor celebrity: as he encounters people and towns, they cheer and barrack him on. This spurs him on with renewed vigour.

    Having said that this is a lovely read, I will add that I found the last couple of chapters a bit harrowing: the letter to The Girl at the Garage and what he finds at the hospice particularly so. The ending is bitter-sweet; but I'm glad it was. I smiled in places and I cried in others; a big lump sat in my throat for the last ten or so pages. Ultimately, Harold loses something but also finds something else that he has longed for. Rachel Joyce doesn't offer a warm, fuzzy read; your spirits will soar and they will plummet.

    .

    Who knows, maybe we could all use a pilgrimage of our own?

  • Lisa Kay
    Jun 27, 2013

    Found at

    :

    ★★★★★ So well narrated by the wonderful Jim Broadbent. If you'd like to hear a bit of it, go

    and click on the pod casts. It touched my heart.

    Found at

    :

    ★★★★★ So well narrated by the wonderful Jim Broadbent. If you'd like to hear a bit of it, go

    and click on the pod casts. It touched my heart.