Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is poignant and whimsical in equal measures.
Writing a first novel must be petrifying, not least because you know all those intelligent, cigar-smoking, tweed jacket-wearing critics are waiting for you with their pitchforks ready to skewer you alive. So we thought we’d give Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry a read, out of sympathy, you know? And, well, damn. We were impressed, and we clearly weren’t the only ones, as it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.
This vivid book tells the story of Harold Fry, recently retired and at that slightly profound moment in life when you have a lot of spare time. His life is about as exciting as platypus’, pottering through life.One day he receives a letter from an old friend Queenie, which brings him out of his monotonous life. Sad to hear that she is terminally ill, Harold goes to post a letter to her, and then just keeps going. As in literally; he keeps walking, 600 miles in the end, to go and find Queenie up in the north of England. Harold doesn’t know why he is walking all the way, only that he must keep going, giving him plenty of thinking space to truly find himself. Throughout his journey, a series of chance meetings and events take place that encourage him to keep moving and debate the merits and woes of life.
The novel is all about self discovery and taking a step back to learn to appreciate the little things in life. Harold’s relationship with his wife, Maureen (who has a minor sense of humor failure to start with) blossoms as they come to understand each other. And, as they say, love grows with distance. Harold finds out that there’s more to life than weeding your garden, and Joyce subtly puts in some morals about life and relationships.
This epic tale of self-discovery is well worth a read, as the witty anecdotes mixed with thought-provoking moments make it hard to put down.
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is available now at Diwan Bookstores for 68 LE.