The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

imagesBooker prize nominee, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is dead right for the grey pound.  It’s the story of a defeated man, 60+, in a relationship that is suffering from terminal decline.

On receiving a letter from an old colleague suffering from cancer, Harold begins the long pilgrimage from Devon to the Scottish border to see her for one last time.  In the process he rediscovers his humanity, learns to forgive himself, and discovers the hospitality of strangers.

Joyce writes with perfect control, deals with emotions without sentimentality and explores the viewpoints of several different characters.  We meet with charity and compassion, as well as commercialism, greed and suffering.  Through Harold we begin to realise that those we thought of as strangers are just as ordinary as ourselves.  We see their suffering and their loneliness as well as their compassion.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is not a challenging book.  The language is simple and the story straightforward.  Everything is in the open – there is no irony, there are no shades of grey.  The writer does not tell all until the end when Harold’s past is revealed slowly and clearly, and so we are drawn into the story as it unfolds.

I have to say I fought against the emotion of this story; either that or it wasn’t sufficiently compelling.  My eyes remained dry, but I am sure others would succumb.  A warm recommendation.

Booker Prize – link contains comments on this book

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