Deborah Swift's Reviews > The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
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Dec 31, 2011

really liked it

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. Inevitably, in exploring his country on foot he finds a simpler, less packaged life at odds with that of his wife and neighbours.

What has happened in his life before this decision gradually unravels before the reader; his failing marriage and a tragic inability to communicate with his work-mates or his son, plus his lack of understanding of himself.

All this is excellently done, the major characters are intriguing and the staleness of a life without change is well-drawn. I enjoyed particularly his wife's reaction to the enterprise - her gradual warming to her husband's mission was subtly and delicately done.

So why only four stars? Where I felt it slipped a little was in the characterisation of the entourage that developed around Harold in the latter pages of the book. These characters became more stereotypical and less believable and weakened what was otherwise an excellent read.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sammyjo I must agree with you about "the pilgrims". They were distracting and annoying. I wanted to read right into the story somehow, grab Harold by the tie and tell him to quit being bullied! It irritated me and seemed out of character for the rest of the book.

Having said that, I believe Harold was the kind of character who would most certainly behave just as he did. It was annoying but at least the character didn't fully weaken as a result.


Kathy I enjoyed your review and your slant on the pilgrims--through their annoyance they offered a contrast for further exemplifying Harold's simple and overly "English" personality . One might even be able to say that by "walking away from his life"--he ultimately stepped more fully into it.


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