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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry #1)

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  81,881 ratings  ·  11,663 reviews
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend 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.

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old frie
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 24th 2012 by Random House (first published March 15th 2012)
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Marion I Loved this book and all the characters. Partway into the book I wished he'd come through my town so I could join his pilgrimage. Filled with so many…moreI Loved this book and all the characters. Partway into the book I wished he'd come through my town so I could join his pilgrimage. Filled with so many wonderful ordinary people, doing good things as best they can. I was on the road as helplessly and determinedly as Harold was, and am better for it.(less)
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenInsurgent by Veronica RothGone Girl by Gillian FlynnCity of Lost Souls by Cassandra ClarePandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Best Books of 2012
71st out of 3,041 books — 9,400 voters
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelThe Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan EngThe Lighthouse by Alison MooreNarcopolis by Jeet Thayil
2012 Man Booker Prize Longlist
1st out of 12 books — 158 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Sep 26, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who believe life's problems can be solved with a nice cup of tea
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Hooked by Title and Cover
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. ‘For years they had been in a place where language had no significance’. 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.

A journey just as much about having the cour

Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Three star review has moved to Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

But really, there are better ways to spend your eyeblinks than reading this mawkish treacle.
Lisa Kay
Found at The Sunday Edition:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of one man's faith in his feet. (OneEighteen/photopin)

So well narrated by the wonderful Jim Broadbent. If you'd like to hear a bit of it, go here and click on the pod casts. It touched my heart.

Jim Broadbent

North Devon coastline

Clovelly, North Devon

Taunton, U.K. You can see the paving stones.

Walled gardens in Taunton.

Glastonbury England - The Resting place of the Legendary King Arthur

Mendip Hills

horse chestnut

Jennifer D
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
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 ...more
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
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
Lynne Spreen
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 ...more
Jon Gilbert
This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. It is interesting that some see it as highly uplifting, others as rather downbeat. Me, I see it as a work that truly reflects the regrets, the wasted opportunities and the terribly constricted lives that so many people experience. It made me think about my own mistakes, missed opportunities and the things I could do to make a difference in my own life which makes this book rather more powerful than a typical novel.
Harold Fry lives quiet
Jan 05, 2013 Alison rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pilgrims
Recommended to Alison by: Dini
"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."

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 loved the purity and spare beauty of this sad but uplifting tale. At first I wondered how I could possibly get involved in this apparently absurd story. A retired salesman for a brewery receives a letter of goodbye from an old friend, Queenie, who is dying of cancer, and, on the way to the mailbox with a return reply, ends up setting out on a 500 mile walk to visit her. But it was a quick read and full of pleasant surprises and many special moments where the clouds of life’s travails and burie ...more
What the heck, Goodreads?? What the HECK?

Though I did not finish this, I feel that is proof enough of this book's ridiculousness. Maybe I am all the more indignant because I was all, hey, check it out, it got this crazy good rating, and yay, my library managed to get it before I got too old to read, and isn't goodreads amazing because wow it alerts me to wonderful books and SO I DON'T HAVE TO READ BAD ONES ANYMORE EXCEPT THIS TIME I STILL DID!
What is it with you people? I mean seriously?? Let's
Where to next Sancho?

Harold Fry is definitely an unlikely hero. He would also have easily been voted ‘least likely to go on a spiritual quest’. This makes him perfect for this story because it’s about unlikely thoughts, friendships, marriages, what have you. Harold’s quest begins with a letter from a former co-worker he thinks of fondly. They’ve shared a pivotal moment in Harold’s life. He reads the letter soon after he retires from said job and he reads it in front of his continually carping wi
B the BookAddict
Feb 04, 2015 B the BookAddict rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dale, everyone
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: saw comments by Michael and Lit Bug
Shelves: fiction

What to say about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; 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
An allegorical adventure that speaks to the reader gently, quietly, and personally. Harold’s odyssey if you will in Forrest Gump fashion taking it one day at a time.

Burdened by a life where he has ended up feeling like nothing he did mattered, in a souless marriage that appears to be well past its expiration date, Harold has a destination in mind but of course it’s all about the journey getting there. Haunted by buried memories and words left unsaid he takes a first literal step and then many
There is only one book that has ever made me cry. That book is The Kite Runner. I had always wondered if I would ever read another book that would make me cry and if so, which book would it be? Harold Fry… you made me cry and cry and cry and then when I thought I was finished crying…you made me cry again.

Harold Fry, now retired, receives a letter from an old friend and work colleague, Queenie Hennessy. Queenie, who hasn’t seen Harold for over twenty years, is saying goodbye. So begins Harold’s j
Aug 07, 2012 Beadyjan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoyed Major Pettigrews last stand by Helen Simonson
Absolutely delightful - sheer reading pleasure at its very best.

Harold and Maureen are a retired couple living a quiet, mundane life in Devon, where hardly anything ever happens and they hardly ever talk to each other any more, when they do its barely an exchange of words followed by Maureens usual put down "I think not"

One day a letter arrives for Harold which informs him that an old work colleague Queenie is in a hospice in Berwick on Tweed. Harold pens a reply and walks out of the door to pos
Aug 06, 2012 René added it
Shelves: abandoned
I won't be pursuing this read. After the first few chapters, the book and I decided to sit down and seriously talk about where this read was headed. The conversation went something like this:

ME: Look, I don't mean to appear impatient, ok, I know you're doing your best to hold my attention in this read, but I have to admit to you, and I hope you can understand that this is in no way an indictement of the style or structure, but the whole plot feels rather contrived.

TUPOHF: Where is this headed? A
Deborah Swift
I loved the premise of this book, that a man could just decide one day, whilst out to post a letter, to keep walking away from his life. Ostensibly he is on a mercy mission to a former colleague who is terminally ill with cancer, but the journey is more than that, as is suggested by the title. It is an old man's journey to find himself. Harold Fry is ill-equipped for such a journey as clad only in his deck-shoes he sets off to walk from Devon to Berwick-upon Tweed - the length of England. Inevit ...more
Doug Bradshaw
Harold Fry walked 600 miles through villages, his life and relationships and sometimes lugubrious past, his marriage and his future. It was almost as if he had died and was now reviewing everything about his life, his failures, his successes, the psychology of what made him what he had become with an angel or spiritual guide and now perhaps can find ways to finally resolve and improve what life he has left in him. Here are my random thoughts and reasons I really loved the book.

1. This book could
Feb 21, 2015 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sue by: Cynthia Tooley
This has proved to be a very rewarding reading experience and I found that I liked it's slow reveal of Harold's life and of Harold, Maureen and Queenie's back stories. It seemed as the book progressed that Harold slowly began to realize, or to admit to himself, why he had to walk. His past began to open up to him and, in parallel, at home, his wife began to have much the same experience.

This is not a novel of big moments. It is one of small moments---the remembered grasp of a son's hand, a dog d
I don't want to say much about the book, since so many have read and reviewed it already.
Touching, endearing, realistic, emotional, good.

It is one of the books on my To-Be-Read list that constantly landed on top, and I finally relented. I am not sorry at all. I took the time to venture off with Harold Fry with his letter to Queenie, felt the blisters, muscle spasms and emotional denouement as we walked 627 miles from south to north through England to deliver a letter personally. We dissected li
Angela M
I have recently reread parts of this book in conjunction with reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and I am revising my rating from 4 to 5 stars .
Dec 02, 2014 ☼♄Jülie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All
Recommended to ☼♄Jülie by: AR group friends.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
Much gratitude to my Goodreads Aussie Readers friends for recommending I read this wonderful story.

Poignant...thought provoking... moving....touching...Emotive....

I believe this story will resonate differently to every reader, but one thing I am certain of is that, it will resonate, won't fail to be moved by it in some way.

If emotions could be made tangible through the written word, then Rachel Joyce has perfected that quality with The Unlikely Pil
If I had received a letter informing me someone I once knew was dying of cancer, I would either post a letter, at least a paragraph or two long, most likely expressing my sympathies and recalling some of our times we shared together, or I would want to go and visit, preferably arriving as quickly as possible. Mr Harold Fry, however, on discovering that Queenie, someone he used to work with, is dying of cancer, despite feeling profoundly affected by this news, initially decides to write back 2 st ...more
I was originally drawn to this book because my sweet grandpa's name was Harold Frye. In this book, Harold is on a mission to save his friend Queenie from cancer after she sends him a card from a hospice home telling him goodbye. He vows to walk hundreds of miles to see her as long as she tries to stay alive for his arrival. On his journey, Harold is faced with the reality of his life, the decisions he has made, and the love he feels for his wife and son. Outwardly, Harold meets all sorts of peop ...more
This is one book I'll be re-reading often in the years to come. Acutely poignant and moving (I BAWLED my eyes out at the end), it is absolutely brilliant. The penultimate chapter is a masterpiece in writing.

Full review soon.
Read 3/13/13, reread for book club 3/18/14.

Harold Fry lived a quiet life of retirement with his wife in village in southern England. One day he receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy, saying that she is in hospice and wants to say good-bye. He writes a note back to her, and on his way to post his letter, he impulsively decides to visit her in person instead. He starts on a six hundred mile walk northward to Berwick with no provisions. As he walks mile after mile in his yachting s
Adrian White
I came across this short passage in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and it blew me away:

"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
Dale Harcombe
Four and a half stars. This is a heartbreaking book. The prose is at times simple and beautiful. One example is, ’Maureen sat alone as dark fell, while neon lights came on across the hills and bled pools of amber into the night. ‘ But it is the characters and the story that unfolds that is heartbreaking. When Harold receives a letter saying that Queenie a woman he used to work with is dying, he sets out to post a short note to her. What starts out as a quick trip to the post box turns into a tre ...more
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Cranbury Public L...: September 16 - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 1 4 Aug 20, 2015 10:00AM  
Spring Valley Pub...: Ex Libris Book Group : 7-15 1 3 Jun 20, 2015 09:50AM  
Old love Queenie Hennessy??? 55 361 May 25, 2015 04:13PM  
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Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Harold Fry (2 books)
  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
Perfect The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy A Faraway Smell of Lemon The Harold Fry and Queenie Hennessy 2-book Bundle: Includes: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy The Porter and the Three Ladies

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“People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.” 137 likes
“I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. The only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It's like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it's there and keep falling in. After a while, it's still there, but you learn to walk round it.” 121 likes
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