Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

About the Book               

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.
A novel of unsentimental charm, humour, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.
Alright, so this wraps up my Boeke shortlist – I introduce to you my top choice for Boeke (It actually won the readers choice see here).
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of those books that stood out for me – I hadn’t read a book so eloquent and delightfully uncovered since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  This book truly whittles down characters to their bare minimum and then leaves them to find their own way back.
While Harold Fry has come under some fire for being ‘too slow’ or ‘I wished he’d have walked faster’, I found a sense of calm and detail in the journey for Harold – no big epiphany comes with a walk to the Spar down the road. 
His journey recalculates bits of his past that he just hasn’t dealt with forcing him to face the reality of death, addiction and the need to redeem.
I found specks of hope in this gorgeous tale of one man’s journey to save a woman who saved him!
Buy this book for a friend, a boss, a lover or even yourself... but you must take this pilgrimage...
A worthy winner in my opinion.
See Tamarin du Toit’s review – she recommended that I read this book next in my pile!
And a big, cupcake filled Thank you to Exclusive Books for including me in this year’s Boeke!
About the Author
Rachel Joyce is an award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives in Gloucestershire on a farm with her family and is at work on her second novel.


Ptarmigan Alaska said...

I really liked the cover to this book, but wasn't sure if I would actually like the book itself. It is not my general reading subject. I am glad you liked it, though. Maybe I will give it a try at some point.

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