1. Harold's journey is both physical and metaphorical. He is not
the only character in the novel to go on a journey and Rachel Joyce
has said that writing the book was in itself a journey. What other
literary journeys does this novel call to mind?
2. Harold says he is not a religious man but his journey is
called a pilgrimage and it is undoubtedly a leap of faith. How much
and how consciously do you feel RJ draws on Christian tenets and/or
other belief systems in the novel.
3. Harold is a man with many flaws. Despite, or perhaps because
of this, do you see him as an archetypal Englishman? Or is he an
4. When we first meet Harold and Maureen, while they share
breakfast they seem in different worlds. To what extent did you see
Maureen as the cause of Harold's departure?
5. The mental health of several characters is called into
question in the novel. Depression, Alzheimers, addiction are all
diseases that touch many of us and yet mental illness remains to a
great extent taboo in our society. How is RJ using this? Do you
find it effective?
6. Harold and Maureen are married but both are lonely. The
couple Harold meets at Buckfast Abbey travel together but have also
lost sight of what holds them together. What makes a marriage
happy? How much is romantic happiness about being a pair and how
much about other people and interests?
7. At the start of the book both Harold and Maureen have allowed
friends to fall by the wayside. This story is all about how we all
connect with one another. What makes someone a true friend and how
does RJ represent friendship?
8. Regret is an emotion that plays a key part in the novel. Do
you think RJ sees it as a positive or negative force?
9. Is Harold's relationship with David the inevitable result of
Harold's own upbringing?
10. Rachel Joyce writes beautifully about the English
countryside - but how crucial to the telling of her story is the
actual landscape she describes? How would it change the novel if it
was set in Scotland, perhaps, or France, or..?
11. The sea provides bookends for the novel and plays a vivid
part in Harold's memories. Is this significant?
12. How does RJ use food, and the sharing of food in the
13. How much are Harold's responses to his fellow pilgrims
dictated by his past?
14. Was the ending of the novel a shock or the inevitable
15. Who saves who in this novel?
16. Has The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
inspired you to do something out of the ordinary - take a journey?
Renew contact with someone? Look at strangers with a new
perspective? Do share your response with us at