book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Rachel Joyce - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

 Reviewed live on bookshow by Ro Bennett 11th April 2013.
This book was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 201.2 and had 932 reviews on Amazon.

Harold Fry is a recently retired accountant.  A very ordinary and unassuming man, he and his wife Maureen are in a tired and empty marriage. One April morning Harold receives a letter from a former colleague, Queenie Hennessy, to tell him that she is suffering from terminal cancer in a nursing home in Berwick-on-Tweed. They have not been in contact for twenty years. 

Harold writes Queenie a letter and sets out to post it, but for some reason he doesn't quite understand, when he gets to the post box he just keeps walking. Somehow the posting of this letter seems inadequate. Harold phones the hospice  and asks the staff to tell Queenie to hang on until he gets there - he’s on his way. Thus begins the long walk of over 600 miles in an effort to save Queenie’s life and right a wrong.  As he trudges the miles and reflects, Harold struggles to make sense of his life.  He looks for some hope and optimism and humanity throughout his journey.

Absence from her husband also causes Maureen to reassess her life and their marital situation. As the story develops, Harold’s relationship with  Maureen and their son David is disclosed and the reader discovers the part Queenie played in his life and how it all intertwined. 

This was a gentle amble of a read but with a a touch of cynicism and a bit of an unexpected bite. On the whole I liked it, but I did find bits of it a tad tedious and parts of the book were rather drawn out and unnecessary. I didn’t find it credible that a generally inactive, retired gentleman could walk such a distance in inadequate clothing and wearing deck shoes which were eventually held together with duck tape. Or continue to walk, despite what seems like a serious calf muscle injury and bleeding blisters, whilst sleeping rough and surviving on what he could forage... However I grew to like Harold as a character and was interested to see how it would all end. 

The reviews were mostly positive but I could empathise as well with the ones who wrote:

Like Queenie, I nearly lost the will to live as well while reading this tedious tale.
Tedious.  A great advert for train travel!

No comments: