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Thread: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. by Rachel Joyce.

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. by Rachel Joyce.

    Thanks to my local book club I came across this little gem.

    When Harold Fry receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old work colleague telling him she is dying of cancer hundreds of miles away, his hastily written reply seems inadequate . He can't bring himself to post it and, after an epiphany at a petrol station, decides there and then to walk the 500 miles to her bedside as an act of faith.
    So the unlikely journey begins. Harold keeps on walking leaving behind his wife and home. As he journeys North his simple innocence affects people he meets and he in turn is buoyed and enriched by them.
    It also gives him and his wife Maureen time and space to re-examine their past and their fractured relationship until they are eventually able to revisit the darkest episode of their lives. It is only as he walks further and further away from her, they can begin to close the bitter chasm that has opened up between them.

    This is Rachel Joyce's first novel, though she has written many half hour radio plays for the BBC. I think this is reflected in the deceptively simple and efficient prose. The descriptions are often beautiful but never over done, the odd metaphor crops up but she is content to embed them perfectly into the story rather than flagging them up. She has a true writer's instinct of knowing what to leave out. The result is uncluttered simple prose that is both moving and effective.

    “He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness . 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. He walked so surely it was as if all his life he had been waiting to get up from his chair.”

    She brings the same skill to bear with her characters. These are not extraordinary people, they are well drawn, normal and real - the kind you might meet –carrying on despite their problems and concerns.

    At the end, Harold thinks the faith he had to start his journey was foolish and misplaced. Ironically he does not see the difference he made to so many people, including Queenie and himself. Faith carries no guarantees.

    I shall give this one a rare 8/10.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 12-09-2013 at 02:58 AM.
    ay up

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    We now have a sequel ! (Harrah) "The Love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy". It's not exactly a sequel, it is Queenie's story as she lies in the hospice waiting for Harold - so it's a companion story really. It is written in the form of a long confessional 2nd letter to Harold. It is funny, poignant, thought provoking, entertaining and is the best book I shall read this year.

    I wont go into the plot anymore because you have to read the Harold Fry book first (see above) and if you do you will know what this one is about, but, It's so good it got me thinking about writing. Rachel Joyce learned her trade writing radio plays for the BBC, so she has heard her words read and interpreted by others - actors, directors, producers - she knows what works and what doesn't. She knows how her words effect minds of others, she knows when less is more and when it isn't. The result is clear confident text proving that a gentle touch can move the reader most powerfully.
    ay up

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