Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce Book Review

I've been feeling a bit lethargic lately and that's why blogging has kind of hit the back burner and, as you'll see when my November summary post goes live next week, reading has also. Thankfully I've got myself out of this little funk and hopefully be doing more of both but I don't think I'll achieve my reading goal of 30 books in 2015. I thought I'd ease myself in with this book as it's not too long and that, teamed with the larger font, made me think it wouldn't be too taxing to get through.

This Sunday Times Bestseller tells the tale of a simple, recently retired man unsurprisingly named Harold. He exists in a clockwork-like routine in Devon. His wife Maureen seems to resent him and they communicate little further than small talk. Out of the blue, Harold receives a note from an old friend with whom he used to work, Queenie Hennesey. She's in a hospice and dying. Harold quickly scribbles a reply and heads off to post it. On his way, he gets convinced that if he walks to Queenie in Berwick, 600 miles away, she will fight to stay alive and see him. On his journey he meets an array of people who teach him lessons about life. Whilst he trudges along he has a serious amount of alone time to reflect on his life, about what went right, what went wrong and his regrets.

I found that Harold's way of thinking that his journey could keep Queenie alive pretty relatable. Too often, I find myself thinking if I just plan for and do "x" then "z" will happen, completing forgetting about "y". What I mean is, whilst you can plan and hope to achieve something or for an event to happen, there are so many potential "y" scenarios or, intercepting factors, from, other individuals' plans to the universe and it's mysterious ways. Alongside this message, the Unlikely Pilgrimage is a tale of forgiveness, atonement and has an air of "it's never too late to make a change in your life".

I found the opening of this Forrest Gump and The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window hybrid, compelling to read. I'm sure you're familiar with reading a book and just really needing to know what happens. This feeling dwindled about half way to two thirds of the way through and only returned at the finale. I found the ending pretty disappointing as it felt a bit awkward and rushed. Perhaps Rachel Joyce thought so too. She was originally adament there wouldn't be a sequel/prequel but just last year "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey" was born.

As I mentioned, in my review of "Us", I love a book that makes me question the way I live my life. Harold's story just about did that but I feel it would be more hard hitting to someone who could relate better to the main characters. It's an easy read and despite my previous mentioned qualms and although a bit repetitive at times (there's only so many descriptions of the great British outdoors and encounters with strangers you can take) it's an all round "OK" book.

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