Kevin Ansbro's Reviews > The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
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it was amazing
bookshelves: quest, inspirational, redemption, heartwarming, uplifting, gentle-humour
Recommended for: Yacht shoe-wearers, eternal optimists, mature readers.

Attention all yacht shoe wearers! Please unite for this wonderfully heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking tale of loss, sorrow and redemption.
*REVIEW CONTAINS NO SPOILERS*
For reasons unimaginable, some (ahem!) fair-minded readers have offered this cleverly-crafted book an oh-so-generous one star, out of five! Seriously, WTF?
It may be true that TUPOHF is more likely to be better-received by mature readers and would also appeal to Anglophiles who are the wrong side of forty (effectively old gits, similar to myself), but come on!

Unworldly Englishman, Harold Fry, a retired brewery salesman pops out to post a sympathy letter to an old work colleague (Queenie), who resides 627 miles away. But instead of doing this, he spontaneously heads off in her faraway direction, wearing clothes that are better-suited for a trip to the local garden centre.
In an unconscious attempt to exorcise his own demons, his accidental journey somehow becomes an inspirational, perhaps heroic, pilgrimage.
There is something delightfully Quixotic about his unrealistic quest, and readers of this story will find themselves walking with him, in spirit, each painful step of the way. The crudeness of modernity and the grunge of the great outdoors are the antithesis of his usually disciplined existence; the fractiousness of other members of society offers a comedic contrast to Harold's unfailing innocence.
Joyce optimistically recognises the kindness of strangers, who are happy to contribute to a good cause; although (because I am English) I would have at least expected a box of KFC bones to have been hurled at his head from a passing car, or for a farmer to have gurgled, "Get off my land!"

This tenderly-written novel is the best I've read all year: it will cause you to chuckle from time to time, and there's a good chance it will bring a tear to your eye.


So, if raw life experiences have left you mature beyond your years, or if you're a wrinkled old coffin-dodger, about to pop your clogs, this might be right up your street!
And please abandon whatever it is you're reading. Release your inner Harold and join his pilgrimage!


*Immediately after reading this, if you enjoyed Harold's pilgrimage, please read its companion book: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy*
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 27, 2015 – Shelved
September 27, 2015 – Shelved as: quest
September 27, 2015 – Shelved as: inspirational
September 27, 2015 – Shelved as: redemption
September 27, 2015 – Shelved as: heartwarming
September 27, 2015 – Shelved as: uplifting
September 27, 2015 – Shelved as: gentle-humour
September 27, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-45 of 45 (45 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the recommendation !


Kevin Ansbro Helene wrote: "Thanks for the recommendation !"
You are very welcome, Helene. Have a fabulous day!


message 3: by Cecily (new)

Cecily I confess that until now, I've glimpsed the title and cover and neither have appealed. You've made me realise the importance of not being quite so cursory. It certainly sounds like something worthy of consideration.


Kevin Ansbro Cecily wrote: "I confess that until now, I've glimpsed the title and cover and neither have appealed. You've made me realise the importance of not being quite so cursory. It certainly sounds like something worthy..."

I'd love to hear your thoughts, should you ever pick it up, Cecily.
The book is very 'English', which might narrow its appeal. But nevertheless it has achieved positive reviews both sides of the pond.
I seem to rate books higher than most folk on Goodreads. So, if you subtract one star from each of my ratings, you might get a fairer score! : )


message 5: by Glenn (new) - added it

Glenn Sumi What a brilliant review! If Rachel Joyce's prose is anything like yours – "wrinkled old coffin-dodger," "grunge of the great outdoors," "farmer gurgling, 'Get off my land!'" – it's going to be a fun journey. Thanks, Kevin.


Kevin Ansbro Why, sir, I do believe I'm blushing.
Especially coming from you, that's very welcome praise indeed! You and Debbie are my favourite reviewers (don't know her surname, she's just ... um ... Debbie!). Well, anyway, both of you write superb reviews that make mine seem dull by comparison!
Thanks, Glenn.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Great review, Kevin. Thanks. Roused my curiosity, I think I'm going to like this book. :)


Kevin Ansbro Anne wrote: "Great review, Kevin. Thanks. Roused my curiosity, I think I'm going to like this book. :)"

This book does have that 'feel good' factor, Anne.
However, it is deceptive: a gentle, slow-paced read that compels you to invest deeply in its main character, and one that also tugs at your heartstrings.


Kevin Ansbro Jill wrote: "I agree with Anne. The review makes me want to read this book. It's on my TBR. Thanks"

Thanks, Jill.
It's a charming read.
And it also draws you into its pages, so you almost feel that you are accompanying Harold on his unlikely pilgrimage.


Victoria Haha! Best review of this much loved book!!! I've snortled (embarrassing snort + chortle) my way through it twice. And I've learned a few new British phrases...pop your clogs?! Devine!


Kevin Ansbro Victoria wrote: "Haha! Best review of this much loved book!!! I've snortled (embarrassing snort + chortle) my way through it twice. And I've learned a few new British phrases...pop your clogs?! Devine!"

Aww, thank you so much, Victoria!
Making people laugh is one of my very few (perhaps only) secret superpower. : )


Cheri Delightful, wonderful review, Kevin! I loved this book so very much, and it has stayed with me since then. My favourite thing about this book may be when you next see someone you've recommended this book to, and they have that "look" that comes from having read a book that touched them heart and soul.


Kevin Ansbro Cheri wrote: "Delightful, wonderful review, Kevin! I loved this book so very much, and it has stayed with me since then. My favourite thing about this book may be when you next see someone you've recommended thi..."

Thank you Cheri, most kind!
I wrote this review back in May and was surprised that this seemingly simple story could move me so much, such was the cleverness of Rachel Joyce's writing.


message 14: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie Johnston Kevin, terrific review! I must read this book -- I love Harold already.


Kevin Ansbro Laurie wrote: "Kevin, terrific review! I must read this book -- I love Harold already."

Thank you, Laurie!
In Harold there is much to love.


Laysee Hi Kevin, charming review that is testament to your "secret superpower". :)


Kevin Ansbro Laysee wrote: "Hi Kevin, charming review that is testament to your "secret superpower". :)"

Aww, thank you, Laysee!
Kind as ever. : )


message 18: by Esil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Esil I love your review, Kevin. You obviously have a great sense of humour! I gave this book to friends to read as they went on a sixty day walk through the Pyrenees...


Kevin Ansbro Thanks, Esil.
I loved your review too!


message 20: by Lata (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lata There was a lot of sadness in this story. But I was also touched by the kindnesses that Harold received as he walked towards Queenie.


Kevin Ansbro Lata wrote: "There was a lot of sadness in this story. But I was also touched by the kindnesses that Harold received as he walked towards Queenie."

Exactly, Lara.
The kindness of strangers really added to the feelgood factor of this charming tale.
Thank you for reading my review!


message 22: by Brina (new)

Brina Kevin, another friend recommended this book to me today. Seeing your high marks for this, I am excited to read this now.


message 23: by Kevin (last edited Jun 29, 2017 10:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Ansbro Brina wrote: "Kevin, another friend recommended this book to me today. Seeing your high marks for this, I am excited to read this now."

Oh gosh, I hope it lives up to expectations.
Don't expect high drama; it's a gentle, understated novel with an undercurrent of pathos.
Thank you, Brina!


Jaline Beautifully written, Kevin - and I'm going to follow the advice in your last sentence, too! :)


Kevin Ansbro Jaline wrote: "Beautifully written, Kevin - and I'm going to follow the advice in your last sentence, too! :)"

Thank you so much, Jaline.
I've just returned from your own beautifully poignant review, which I loved!


Jaline Kevin wrote: "Jaline wrote: "Beautifully written, Kevin - and I'm going to follow the advice in your last sentence, too! :)"

Thank you so much, Jaline.
I've just returned from your own beautifully poignant review, which I loved!"


It is one of those books - I have been smiling non-stop since the end - it's like from somewhere I hear echoes of Harold's and Maureen's laughter. :)


Terry S Kevin I enjoyed your review much more than I enjoyed the book! I really picked it up just on the basis of your review but I found it simplistic & tedious & cliched & not especially well written. I think perhaps from now I should just read you rather than the books!


message 28: by Kevin (last edited Aug 15, 2017 12:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Ansbro Terry wrote: "Kevin I enjoyed your review much more than I enjoyed the book! I really picked it up just on the basis of your review but I found it simplistic & tedious & cliched & not especially well written. I ..."

Very kind of you to say, Terry. The books that I write couldn't be more different to this gentle, tender story.
This was a complete departure to the type of novels that I would usually read (I'm partial to a bit of oomph, a few metaphorical trapdoors and a good dollop of jeopardy).
I was therefore surprised that I liked it, but like it I did.
We're both very happily agreed on Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which is much more my thing!
Loved the honesty of your review, by the way; always the best policy.


Julie Kevin,
I didn't know this book existed, until today, and after typing in the title, to search it on here, I could not believe how many GRs friends of mine loved this. Dang, I need this read right now!


Kevin Ansbro Julie wrote: "Kevin,
I didn't know this book existed, until today, and after typing in the title, to search it on here, I could not believe how many GRs friends of mine loved this. Dang, I need this read right now!"


Thanks, Julie!
It's a gentle, unassuming read (not at all what I'd usually go for), but it caught me unawares.
I'd be interested to see what you make of it.


Heather Excellent review Kevin. I read this book about four or five years ago and it’s still in my mind as one of my favourites. I recommend it to anyone who will listen although no one seemed to have quite the same enthusiasm as me after reading it. I just feel in love with Harold and his journey.


message 32: by Kevin (last edited May 13, 2018 05:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Ansbro Heather wrote: "Excellent review Kevin. I read this book about four or five years ago and it’s still in my mind as one of my favourites. I recommend it to anyone..."

Thanks, Heather!
Did you also read the companion book to this?
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy


message 33: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Another book I’ve been resisting. I may change that. Thanks, Kevin!


message 34: by Kevin (last edited May 13, 2018 06:03AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Ansbro Tammy wrote: "Another book I’ve been resisting. I may change that. Thanks, Kevin!"

Thanks, Tammy!
I expected this to be too lightweight and twee for my taste, but it charmed me, quite unexpectedly.


Heather Kevin, I picked up The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy but it just didn’t grab me. I think after reading Harold’s story nothing would have moved me like that. Maybe I will try again though. Sometimes I pick up a book and it doesn’t resonate with me and then I will try again another time and end up loving it. 😁


message 36: by Lars (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lars Dradrach Excellent review Kevin, this is a brilliant example of books that depends fully on your state of mind when you read it, it apparently caught you at the right time, for me it was a 3 Star but I can easily imagine it could have been more at another time.


message 37: by Nat (new)

Nat K I had visions of Hyacinth & Richard Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet") when I saw your opening line...dressed to the nines in their yachting attire. Great review Kevin.


Kevin Ansbro Lars wrote: "Excellent review Kevin, this is a brilliant example of books that depends fully on your state of mind when you read it, it apparently caught you at the right time, for me it was a 3 Star but I can ..."

Thanks, Lars. I think you're right in saying that it caught me at the right moment. I'd just read some more weighty tomes and the easy charm of this was just the thing I needed!


Kevin Ansbro Nat wrote: "I had visions of Hyacinth & Richard Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet") when I saw your opening line...dressed to the nines in their yachting attire. Great review Kevin."

Like people who pronounce Phuket as 'fooquet', when it should be 'Pooket' or, as the locals pronounce it, 'Pooget'.
Thank you so much, Nat.
Hyacinth Bouquet was a great character! : )


Debbie Fantastic review, as always, Kevin. I think I gave this a 3, but now you have totally convinced me that I liked it more than I thought, lol. Such is the power of your review! I especially liked:

"So, if raw life experiences have left you mature beyond your years, or if you're a wrinkled old coffin-dodger, about to pop your clogs, this might be right up your street!"

I swear that a pogo stick might have made Harold's trek easier.


Kevin Ansbro Debbie wrote: "Fantastic review, as always, Kevin. I think I gave this a 3, but now you have totally convinced me that I liked it more than I thought, lol. Such is the power of your review!

Ha! You're right! A pogo stick would have greatly improved the efficiency of his pilgrimage, Debbie!! : )
Thank you for your kind words.


message 42: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane Great review 🤗


Kevin Ansbro Jane wrote: "Great review 🤗"

Thank you, Jane! : )


Linda I just stumbled across your beautifully written review. This little gem walked right into my heart quite unexpectedly and it has lingered there. You captured it well, Kevin.


Kevin Ansbro Linda wrote: "I just stumbled across your beautifully written review. This little gem walked right into my heart quite unexpectedly and it has lingered there. You captured it well, Kevin."

Thanks, Linda!
This gentle book was a diversion from my usual genres, but its charm and innocence caught me pleasantly unawares. : )


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