The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

02 Mar

Harold Fry is truly the perfect antidote to Gone Girl! Everyone is ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’ and the quirkiness is gentle and quiet, in a reassuring kind of way! No diabolical plotting here, no malignant thoughts…just a man, not very young, rather alone, trying to get something done. Something he starts on instinct that eventually transforms into something like faith.

86.Rachel Joyce-The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold FrySo we have Harold Fry…walking from one end of England to another in a manner reminiscent of Pilgrims Progress! Remember that? I read it way back when I was in school and although I don’t remember details I remember being very taken by the story. It’s the same with this one. It started off slowly, like its protagonist, who is a quietly reserved, extremely introspective man, a man used to being invisible in his own life. A man defeated by life and frozen in time, who finally makes an instinctive decision spurred on by his wish to honour a long lost friendship. What follows is a wholesome story of the people he meets along the way on this journey, akin to a modern-day pilgrimage; people who inspire and distract, who flatter and disappoint, who encourage and disparage – but are all invaluable companions on his journey of self-discovery. Like all good journeys, this one doesn’t begin with an intent to self-discovery, but that’s what it eventually becomes.

But the book has two journeys, truth be told. Maureen, Harold’s wife and companion for 45 years – is on her own journey; one enforced by that of her husband’s; and what I particularly enjoyed was how their journeys were so distinct and different and yet so similar in result. This is also a love story of the best kind and as the book approached its end – Joyce’s dialogue between husband and wife struck a chord and made me tear up more often than not! It’s poignant and deep without ever being preachy. Her gentle language and writing style are the perfect vehicles for a story like this one. The scenes where Maureen is organizing their wardrobe and later on when they meet in Berwick –Upon – Tweed are particularly tender and enlightening.

A feel good, easy to read  yet profoundly inspirational book that will leave you wanting more and that for me, washed away all the grit and darkness from Gone Girl and replaced it with a lightness of spirit! A good read! From this review onward  I thought it would be fun to list new words that I learnt from the books I read, just to keep track 😉

New word learnt: Shambolic – chaotic, disorganized, or mismanaged. A useful word in my vocabulary 😛

The book befitting its pilgrimage theme is strewn with little nuggets of wisdom like these:

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passer-by, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went.”

“He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had done so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.”

“It’s a rather unusual kind of healing. I don’t know how you came up with it. But maybe it’s what the world needs. A little sense, and a little more faith.” Amen to that 😉

 And my favourite,

“He walked so surely it was all his life he had been waiting to get up from his chair.”

It has a wonderful cover too! Read it 🙂                                                                                                                    


Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Uncategorized


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7 responses to “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

  1. Claire 'Word by Word'

    March 10, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Well I haven’t read Gone Girl, but I can also attest that this book is also a brilliant anti-dote to the flu, I enjoyed Harold’s quiet transformation, which was partly just getting back to finding the man he was always capable of being, that had got a bit lost along the way – and don’t we all suffer from that at some stage in our life.

    It’s a pity people don’t write letters any longer, we might all be inspired to take a longer, more beneficial walk. 🙂 Lovely review.

    • crazygoangirl

      March 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      🙂 I’m so glad you got over the Flu. Harold must have been an inspiring companion 🙂

      Indeed we do…all the chaos that surrounds us makes us lose sight of who we really are and it’s such a relief when we finally find our way back again. I totally agree on the letters!! I used to be quite a keen letter-writer myself, but now the virtual word has taken over everywhere – sometimes I think – even my mind 😛

      Thank you so much for dropping by and for such insightful comments 🙂

      • Claire 'Word by Word'

        March 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm

        I still write letters to my father and to a friend who lives almost permanently in a wilderness, much like ‘Wild’, but in the Milford Sound in New Zealand, and what makes those letters so special is that we all live such very different lives, so even when writing about the mundane, it is so fulfilling for the person receiving it.

        My friend often wakes up looking out onto New Zealand’s tallest waterfall and spends much of her life guiding people through remote forest and fiords – she thinks she has nothing to share, but it is such a joy to receive a few pages of a nature experience, far from civilisation and the instantaneous communication of the internet. I recognise these correspondences as the treasures they really are and hope to continue them as long as possible.

        I see you are reading Booker nominated works and wondered if you have read The Garden of Evening Mists? You might also enjoy checking out my first review of 2013 which was a reread of one of my favourite books and also one I picked off a Booker longlist from many years ago called The Industry of Souls.

      • crazygoangirl

        March 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        That’s wonderful 🙂 Your friend is lucky she lives surrounded by Nature! Can’t think of a better way to live 🙂 And each one of us has our own unique story right?

        Yes, I started the blog with an exclusively Booker focus in mind, but I ran out of steam pretty quickly! I found most of them rather morose and heavy reading. All that grief…just got the better of me 😛

        So now I read the occasional Booker but most of the time I read what I like! I haven’t read The garden of Evening Mists yet, although it keeps popping up on several lists. I’m afraid it might be depressing so I’m putting it off for later! I will certainly check out The Industry of Souls…I’m planning to read a lot of your reviews for recommendations. I think our taste in books is pretty similar and that’s crucial!

      • Claire 'Word by Word'

        March 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        That’s great, yes I like your list of books and you are right to just read freely, my blog is all about that, following my own instinct and trying to understand what it is that I relate to or don’t as the case may be. And such fun to share with like-minded souls. Happy to have connected with you and will follow your reviews in future.

      • crazygoangirl

        March 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

        Likewise 🙂 It’s times like these and meetings like this that make me fall in love with the Internet all over again!


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