Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce.

Published: 15th March 2012
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304
Age Group: Adult
Challenge: British Book Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Read and Review Challenge
Buy this book: Amazon UK

Synopsis [Goodreads]
When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking to save someone else's life.

The cover...

Although the dust jacket is suited to the story, I preferred the actual covers of the book and how they depicted Harolds' journey and its' companions.

How did I find out about this book?
I found this book through the Waterstones Read and Review section, entered to 'win' it and was pleasantly surprised when it came through my letterbox unannounced.

What is this book about?
This book is about an older man named Harold who for twenty years has let his life dwindle.  He finds out from a letter that an old friend is terminally ill and when he goes out to post a return letter he decides then and there that he would rather do it face-to-face.  So, with no mobile phone and wearing a pair of yachting shoes he sets off on foot to walk over 600 miles to finally say what he has been meaning to say for twenty years.

My opinion...
Wow. What a moving story. There is so much to say, so much to comment on, yet it has somehow rendered me speechless.
The story seems so simplistic, from the chapter titles to the chapter pictures to the actual image of a man going out to post a letter and deciding to actually go and deliver it personally, yet it was mesmerising. The fact that Harold was an older man who kept to himself and didn't know many people, yet was still able to find his feet, excuse the pun, and get out into the world and somehow find himself again was what made this a great read.

I loved the main characters of Harold and Maureen (and even Rex) from the beginning.  Even though they appeared to be ordinary people, there was so much more to them and what made them become who they are and it was great to find this out.  The many details of their life were highlighted throughout the book and told in a way that complimented Harolds' journey.  The different twists that the author took I found rather unexpected but in a good way as again it highlighted how lifes victories, traumas and dramas can really change a person and only when you truly have the time to think about what has happened and come to terms with it are you able to fully move on, which I believe is a different process for everyone.

When other 'pilgrims' decided to join Harold, I thought that this would somewhat destroy Harold's progress, especially since I was so enjoying just hearing his and his wifes' sides of the tale.  Although it did in a way, it showed that although you will find such amazing people in the world, there will still be the ones who are only out for themselves and using you to gain achievements for themselves.  The way in which the author brought this into the mix was enlightening, it showed that although people may 'push' you down, you should get right back up again as you are as equally important to the world as they are.  It also showed that some people are 'sheep' and follow the crowd because they feel that this is what they should do in order to fit in, however, this is not allowing them to achieve any of their own goals per se, it is only allowing them to mooch off of anothers' victory and what does that really say about them as a person?

I guess the only actual negative point to be made about this book was how in some parts it seemed as though it was set back when a lot of the new technology did not exist and yet there was the small mentions of 'tweeting' or mobile phones that brought it back to modern day.  It made me realise how much we actually rely on these types of technology nowadays and made me wonder whether it would actually be possible to discard them for a long period of time?

This book is a definite pick me up, I think you will find yourself questioning a lot about your own life and own woes and pondering whether such silly things should be having such an effect on your life. In my opinion, I think they always will, but you just need to find the right route to get past these and essentially get to your own goal, just like Harold!

Rachel Joyce is an amazing storyteller, I think a story like this can be taken in so many different ways and thay ou may get something different through re-reading it.  I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

If you enjoyed this book: what to read next...
This book reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump and has made me want to watch that movie again. However, what I didn't realise was that this movie is based on a book of the same name by Winston Groom, and I think I will be seeking this one out!

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