The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce

Doubleday Canada | July 24, 2012 | Hardcover

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is rated 4.7097 out of 5 by 31.
Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn''t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband''s sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 8.55 × 5.78 × 1.03 in

Published: July 24, 2012

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385677693

ISBN - 13: 9780385677691

Found in: Fiction

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Execellent Read I read this book in 2 days and have passed it on and recommended it to others
Date published: 2015-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful story Really loved this book. A great read, and a wonderful journey. I would say this book is more about the story than the ending. Loved it!
Date published: 2014-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unlikely Pilgrimage A very wonderful read. The emotions of the characters are expressed so well, you can feel and empathize with all of them. I loved the journey both physically and mentally, Good lessons for overcoming regrets, achieving acceptance and growth.
Date published: 2014-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry I couldn't wait to read this book as it came highly recommended. Best book I've read in a long, long time. I loved the river of emotions I felt; surprise, frustration, sadness, anger and relief. I will recommending this book to friends and colleagues.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Have read it twice: Loved it In a novel that is by turns hilarious and deeply serious, Harold sets out to walk the length of England, hoping passionately, but irrationally, to bring healing to an old friend who’s dying of cancer. As readers, we are privy to Harold’s thoughts and musings on a deeply wounded past. As he weathers more than his share of disasters and heartbreaks, Harold also experiences a healing of the heart in a novel that deftly avoids the maudlin and sentimental even as it presents a welcome antidote to the deep cynicism so prevalent in contemporary novels. The characters are beautifully rendered, especially Harold and his wife Maureen. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2013-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Happy to have met you Harold! What a delightful story to spend time with. It is short and well written. The author uses evocative language such as; " when the house itself seemed to hold its breath". This book is full of descriptive phrases that help the reader feel as if one is watching the pilgrimage take place in their own town. Its a thought provoking tale we should pay attention to.
Date published: 2013-03-28
Rated out of 5 by from A good book to wrap yourself up with during those long winter months. Nothing complicated just a good book. The time line is good and the length is just perfect. Harold finds out just like in the real world just how it is great to walk and put things in the right light and Maureen finds out really what a good person he was. Sometimes in life we find out all of this but it's to late.
Date published: 2013-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A "must read" Sometime you come across a story that you share with others. This is such a story. A wonderful read. We should all take a pilrimage in our later years...if we are lucky enough to live this long. Harold was a fantastic character. Will be sharing this book with all of my friends.
Date published: 2013-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic How many of us would like to do what Harold did, I sure would to just get up and keep walking , meeting characters along the way, not know what they are like and realizing that they dont have same agenda as you and the impact they will have on our life., I missed Harold and his wife when I was finished reading this book. I I would definetly read this book again.....
Date published: 2013-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moving and profound A moving story of life, death, redemption and the importance of relationships. Harold, a plain Englishman receives a letter from an old friend who is dying of cancer. He walks to the mailbox to send his reply but instead keeps walking. If he can only walk the 500 miles to see her one more time, she may keep living. Thus begins his journey towards redemption. As he walks he gains clarity in how his life went wrong and things he wishes he could put right. We also see through the eyes of his wife who struggles with her own emotions and begins her own journey of sorts. Walking is a favorite activity of mine, it's a fine way to sort through complex issues and often brings a clarity of mind. It makes me wish that pilgrimages were more common in modern day.
Date published: 2013-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Have you ever ventured out to the corner store to buy milk and wondered what would happen if you just kept on going? What adventures would you have if you went straight instead of turning back? What kind of people would you meet along the way, and how would they change your life? And what about the people left behind? What would their stories be? After receiving a letter from a dying friend, Harold Fry wrote her a note of reply and then headed off to the nearest post box to mail it. And then, wearing ordinary clothes and yachting shoes, and without so much as a cell phone, he kept going straight instead of turning back. On his unintentional pilgrimage across Great Britain, Harold Fry encountered an adventure or two and learned a lot about himself along the way. Rachel Joyce weaves Harold's story in with those of his son, his wife, the neighbour who supports her, and the dying friend. Using different points of view, Joyce takes the reader on a pilgrimage to understand one family's story as perceived in different ways. We get the full picture of the characters and their life experiences by balancing what they have to say about themselves with what others say about them. Joyce puts on full display the mental games we play with ourselves to get through the day. The inability to accurately perceive self and others is a theme of the book. Joyce's characters' perceptions of self are blurred by anger or self-doubt. They also hold skewed perceptions of others because of lack of communication or misunderstanding. The media outlets in the book make a mess of telling an accurate story— it's human nature to gossip and to make the gossip the best possible story. And other people outright lie. Harold's pilgrimage is one of body and soul. It walks him through faith and doubt, joy and sorrow, and physical development and deterioration. He learns to keep putting one foot in front of another all the same. He learns the basic goodness of humanity. He learns that when someone is healed, it doesn't mean they're cured. And he learns that you can't save everyone. When you finish this book, you will think it was a simple story. Then you'll think about it some more. The more you think about it, the more profound it will become. It's a potent story, simply told.
Date published: 2013-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hit the mark !! Excellent read, the author weaves a charming story of an individual's life at 60 plus. The English countryside and it's characters met along the journey bring out clarity in Harold Fry's life. Questions that he reluctantly did not address previously in his lifetime give him peace on his journey to say farewell to a friend. A descriptive tapestry from Joyce that made me think of some of my 60 plus years on the planet....Bravo!
Date published: 2013-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from READ THIS IF YOU: NEED INSPIRATION NEED TO GET OUT OF A 'RUT' NEED MOTIVATION NEED TO SEE THE BEST IN HUMAN KIND NEED TO LAUGH NEED TO CRY NEED TO REDISCOVER LOVE NEED TO CHECK OUT FOR A BIT I found this story captivating and enjoyable- well written with an interesting story line. You can't go wrong with this story
Date published: 2012-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing The tale of Harald and his Wife's journey to acceptance, appreciation and back to love is a story I will never forget.
Date published: 2012-11-09
Rated out of 5 by from This is a very good novel. Harold and Maureen Fry have dark, sad secrets which Harold excorsizes by walking from his home in the South-west of England, all the way to Berwick on Tweed. Along the way he meets many people, most of them kind and helpful, a few rather misguided. When I finished it, my faith in human goodness was renewed. It's a truly life-affirming book with dark and light passages. John Last
Date published: 2012-10-29
Rated out of 5 by from I enjoyed this rather unusual bbok. I think, to some extent, many long term marriages/relationships could relate somewhat. I would recommend it a 'good' read.
Date published: 2012-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Summarizes the book perfectly It's a page-turner. Sweet, nice story with endearing characters.
Date published: 2012-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Haunting and Beautiful As the readers before me have said, this book is incredibly moving. It is beautifully written and I am so glad to have read this book. It is the type of story that has touched me deeply and even has me reevaluating my own life.
Date published: 2012-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very moving! The book was an adventure, a spur of the moment kind of thing. About plain man, married to a naggy women whose marriage was split apart by something that you will learn later in the story. Harold Fry decides that he's going to walk all the way to North Scotland to see a women he worked with, who's dying of cancer. But, she must stay alive until he gets there. Folks, make sure you have a box of tissues next to you when you read the end. Although, it does end happily, it's one of the saddest books I've read in a long time. Why would you want to read such a book, you ask? Because you'll be a better person if you do.
Date published: 2012-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Book! What a great story! This book is so beauitfully written. It is a very inspirational story, sad at times and funny too...but mostly just a wonderfully written story about not giving up. I couldn't put this book down. Think I'll have to read this one again :)
Date published: 2012-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down What a beautiful, moving story! You can't help but love Harold, such an unlikely hero, and cheer him on as he tries to reconcile with his old friend, Queenie. A moving story of forgiveness and redemption.
Date published: 2012-10-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good read This book was a good and fast read. Found some parts funny and kind of made you think of your life. Was happy that everything turned out good at the end.
Date published: 2012-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely beautiful Sometimes you start a book and you know right away. You just know that this will be one of those books that sticks with you for a long time to come. You'll hang on every word, every interaction and each one will touch you deeply. This was my experience with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It is the characters that really make this book an amazing experience (though the story will captivate you as well). Harold Fry moved me in a way I definitely hadn't expected. I found myself cheering for Harold when things were going his way, crying out for him when obstacles came up against him. There were a couple of times where actual, full blown tears came to my eyes. I loved Harold's spirit, I loved the honesty about who he was and how he saw himself, and most of all I found myself connecting with him in a incredibly personal way. And I don't think I'm the only one that will have that experience. Although if we're being honest, the real surprise wasn't how much I fell in love with Harold's character. The real surprise was Maureen. At the beginning of the novel, she's a bit annoying and uppity but as the story progresses you learn just how layered her character truly is. At times her own struggles really stole the show and I was amazed by how badly I misjudged her. I found myself cheering for her, just as much as I was cheering for Harold. I had no idea what to expect from this book. As this is a mostly speculative fiction blog, you can guess that it's not the type of book I usually read. And at face value I don't have that much in common with Harold. But that is where this book is unique. It's a book that spoke to me in a very universal way. I may not look like Harold or live where he lives but we're all on a journey of one kind or another and Harold's journey is just one manifestation of that.The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has been nominated for the Booker Prize and it would not surprise me at all if it walks away with the award. This and other reviews at Hooked on Books (
Date published: 2012-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sweet and joyous What's not to love about a modern day, unlikely hero going on an accidental quest? A wonderful tale of human nature and the complex relationships we all share. Harold is a lovable and flawed man carrying life's burdens. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!
Date published: 2012-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lovely and tender Such a heartwarming and tender book. It is a keeper and I will enjoy re-reading this for years to come.
Date published: 2012-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, Uplifting Read! Harold Fry receives a letter from an old friend and colleague that she is in hospice. Queenie, his old friend ,does not have long to live. Harold is so touched by the letter, that he sets off by foot, to visit her, without thinking clearly about the 100 mile walk he is embarking on. When Harold places a brief call to the hospice, a Sister there suggests to him that many dying people will hang on to life until seeing those dear to them. Thus Harold continues on his walk - or pilgrimage, to see his colleague. Our protagonist is a 65 year old man, retired and in a stale and somewhat cold marriage. Something has gone awry with their son, but we are not privy to what that is until very close to the end of the book. As Harold walks each day , he reflects back on his childhood, marriage, how he failed his son and many other events in his life. As he walks he is joined by people from all " walks" of life. Each person affects him in different ways and helps evoke certain memories from Harold's life. These people also give him him hope and appreciation for life as they share small portions of their varied lives. Harold's world grows much broader. I found myself underlining many passages of wisdom as I read the book . While I did not find the book to be sentimental, I challenge anyone who reads the book not to have tears in their eyes during the last pages in the book. Although The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is long - listed for the Booker, I suspect it will not make the short list. That said, I found this to both the most uplifting and also heartbreaking book that I have read in a long time. I have my copy on a kindle, and I plan to pick up a paper copy so as to underline all of the passages that I so enjoyed. I also think that The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will find a very large audience. I plan to purchase several copies to give away as gifts. A thoughtful , insightful, wonderful read , widely recommended.
Date published: 2012-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely the best novel this year I have read many novels this year and this one is one of the best. You find yourself falling in love with Harold Fry.. his determination to keep walking through his pain. Makes you laugh and makes you cry, and makes you think about your life. The only other thing I can say, its a must read for this week, it will keep you awake on Harold Fry's journey.
Date published: 2012-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing Read I have not read just a great read in a long time. One must go on a journey with Harold Fry and cheer him on through blisters and aching muscles as he makes his journey. The characters were so well fleshed out that you cannot help but root for all of them. I cannot say more except you must read this book this summer.
Date published: 2012-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! You'll fall in love with Harold Fry.
Date published: 2012-08-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A simple task + simple premise = moving & profound story Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5/5 stars) Harold Fry, a meek, retired man with a not-so-loving wife receives a letter from an old friend one day telling him that she is dying. He writes up a response and heads out to the corner mailbox to send it off. Upon reaching the mailbox moments later, he realizes that this is not a sufficient response for a dear friend so he keeps walking to the next corner, and then the following one after that. Before he knows it, Harold has embarked on a journey to walk across the country to his friend, in the hopes – and faith – that his walk will keep her alive if she waits for him to get there. The cast of characters he meets along the way leaves a mark with Harold as he continues walking along, pushing through even when it gets tough. A simple task with a simple premise makes for a moving and profound story. The journey that Harold goes on is not only a literal one but also a mental and metaphorical one. He comes to discover, and rediscover much of what he felt he had lost with his loveless marriage. While Harold is walking from the South of England to the North, his wife finds that her hardened shell is softening as she realizes how much she misses the husband that she has antagonized for so many years of their marriage. There were many poignant moments where Harold meets others with their own sets of woes and worries, and finds strength and motivation from them to keep going. Each with their own problems but also an inspirational spirit about them, many showing their kindness towards an older man on a bizarre trek. I also enjoyed the role that the media played in this story. It’s an interesting statement at how the media influence can affect individuals. For most of the book, I imagined it to be set in an earlier time and if it were not for the mentions of mobile phones and tweeting, this could be a story that withstands the test of time. I don’t necessarily think that it detracts from the story at all, but it might seem dated years down the road when technology and social media trends have moved on. This, and other reviews can be found on my blog
Date published: 2012-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best of the Year This was my favourite book I have read so far this year. It's the kind of book that stays with you long after you have finished reading. I am so happy it is finally out in stores! For my full review, check out the blog I wrote for here:
Date published: 2012-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite books this year - marvelous! The Good Stuff So incredibly good I could not put it down even though it was 2am and I had to get up at 6am This one will win awards people So honest and real and makes you self reflect on your own life I was bawling on many occasions (but I was smart this time I read this kind of book at home) Harold is such a fascinating character - so very real - warts and all - the type of man we all have met in some point in our own lives So honestly portrays grief, guilt and forgiveness So many wonderful insights about life Uncomfortable to read at times as it makes you look into yourself and the see some of the misplaced anger and resentment that can occur in a marriage and the joys and horror of raising a child I am having a really difficult time expressing how incredibly wonderful book this is, but I was incredibly moved by it and well just go buy it already (or of course support your local library and check out a copy & be really nice to the library staff as they most likely are incredibly awesome) some wonderful light humour perfectly placed at the spot that you need it most The Not So Good Stuff some minor repetition but nothing too bad It will break your heart (again not really a bad thing more a warning really) So good once you start reading you will not want to put it down -- Rachel Joyce you owe me some very strong tea I was up till the wee hours of the morning reading it Favorite Quotes/Passages "He had never been good at expressing himself. What he felt was so big it was difficult to find the words, and even if he could, it was hardly appropriate to write them to someone he had not contacted in twenty years." "They believed in him. They had looked at him in his yachting shoes, and listened to what he said, and they made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and to imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious." "He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past." "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 life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and this was the dilemma of being human." Who Should/Shouldn't Read Anyone and everyone should read If you like non stop action and plenty of sex -- well this IS NOT the book for you -- this is a book that you should read and discuss Excellent read for a book club - so many honest discussions could arise from it Know what I am getting for the SIL and sister this year for xmas -- shhh don't tell them! 5 Dewey's I picked this up at BEA and it is signed by the author
Date published: 2012-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another book club recommendation! Humour and depth and a great read. This book is more than about a walk north to meet and ask forgiveness to an old friend. It is about who you meet on the road, that we really are looking for the same things, don't judge people, no matter how different. It is also about the rebuilding of a marriage gone astray and recovery.
Date published: 2012-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take a walk with Harold There's been lots of buzz about Rachel Joyce's debut novel - The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Harold lives in the southern part of England. He is a quiet man, who has tried to keep a low profile in life, preferring not to draw attention to himself. He has recently retired and now stays at home with his wife Maureen, filling the days with small, mundane tasks. But, the relationship between himself and Maureen is growing increasingly fractious. One day the post arrives - with a letter from someone named Queenie Hennessey. Queenie and Harold worked together many years ago, but haven't kept in touch. Queenie is dying and has written a good bye letter to Harold. Harold feels he should send a reply, so he does and dutifully sets off to mail it straight away. Except.....when he reaches the post box, he decides to post it at the next box. And then he has an epiphany - why not deliver the letter in person? And if he can walk the 600 miles to Queenie - she won't die. And that moment marks the beginning of Harold's pilgrimage. "Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living." As Harold walks, he begins to remember and recount his past, much of which he has chosen to repress. "It surprised him that he was remembering all this. Maybe it was the walking. Maybe you saw even more than the land when you got out of the car and used your feet." With just the clothes he had on when he left the house, Harold is forced to step outside of his comfort zone and interact with those he encounters. Many of these people are 'stuck' as well. Harold seems to grow a little bit more with every connection and every step he takes. Harold's journey has an effect on Maureen as well - although she is not walking, she too is on a journey of self discovery. "In waking, he freed that past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own. He no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering." Oh, what can I say - I absolutely loved this book! Joyce has created a marvellous character in Harold - he fairly leapt off the page for me. I shared his sadness, urged him on when he faltered and was sitting on the edge of my chair in the final chapters. But it was Harold's (re)discovering of himself that had me alternating between tears and joy. Joyce's exploration of the human spirit is by turns heart breaking and life affirming. Harold's journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of redemption. Just an absolutely fantastic debut. Do yourself a favour - take a walk with Harold - it's a road worth travelling.
Date published: 2012-07-09

– More About This Product –

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 8.55 × 5.78 × 1.03 in

Published: July 24, 2012

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385677693

ISBN - 13: 9780385677691

Read from the Book

1 Harold and the Letter The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelled of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with a slice of toast that he wasn’t eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen’s telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbors’ stockade fencing. “Harold!” called Maureen above the vacuum cleaner. “Post!” He thought he might like to go out, but the only thing to do was mow the lawn and he had done that yesterday. The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter. She sat opposite Harold. Maureen was a slight woman with a cap of silver hair and a brisk walk. When they first met, nothing had pleased him more than to make her laugh. To watch her neat frame collapse into unruly happiness. “It’s for you,” she said. He didn’t know what she meant until she slid an envelope across the table, and stopped it just short of Harold’s elbow. They both looked at the letter as if they had never seen one before. It was pink. “The postmark says Berwick-upon-Tweed.” He didn’t know anyone in Berwick. He didn’t know many people anywhere. “Maybe it’s a mistake.” “I think not. They don’t get somethi
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From the Publisher

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn''t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband''s sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

About the Author

The author, Rachel Joyce, has written over twenty original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and has created major adaptations for the Classic series and Woman’s Hour, as well as a TV drama adaptation for BBC2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for Best Radio Play. Joyce 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 Cheek by Jowl; and winning a Time Out Best Actress Award and the Sony Silver. She currently lives in Gloucestershire with her family and is at work on her second novel.

Editorial Reviews - Best 100 Books of 2012 - Best 100 Books of 2012 Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize “Late last year the time came to pick 2012’s ‘new face’ for books: I read a pile of first novels and enjoyed a few, but there was only one I adored, and that was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry … It is a funny book, a wise book, a charming book – but never cloying.  It’s a book with a savage twist, - and yet never seems manipulative.  Perhaps because Harold himself is just wonderful… This book may follow a pattern set by another radio dramatist-turned-novelist, David Nicholls, whose One Day has now sold more than a million copies and been made into a successful film simply because one reader said to another ‘I love this book’ over and over again.  So I’m telling you now: I love this book.” — The Times   “The redemption Joyce offers at the end of this novel is haunting, unexpected and inspiring. She makes you want to leave your phone at home and walk out to discover things.” — The Times (UK)   “[A] moving debut.” — The Guardian (UK) "Very rarely, you come upon a novel that feels less like a book than a poignant passage of your own life, and the protagonist like an acquaintance who has gently corrected your path. . . . Rachel Joyce''s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry starts off in just this way. . . .
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Bookclub Guide

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?


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 Everyman?

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 novel?

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 conclusion?

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