The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Published by Transworld
2nd January 2013
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.
Now when this book came out last year there was a lot of publicity about it, and how great it was. However, I didn't rush out and get a copy. I don't know why, I just didn't. Then a few months ago I found a hardback copy in a charity shop and thought to myself that it was about time I read this book. Now I have I can't believe that I didn't read it earlier, for it is fantastic!
One day, no different from any other, Harold Fry receives a letter from an old work colleague Queenie Hennessey. She is writing from a hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed to tell him that she is dying. Harold is shocked, it has been many years since he last set eyes on Queenie, so he decides to reply straight away. He leaves the house to post the letter, and what begins next is the unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry - he decides that he will walk from his house in Kingsbridge, to Berwick to see Queenie - all she has to do is to wait for him.
The book is about his journey, covering 627 miles in 87 days to reach Queenie Hennessey. Along the way he meets a whole host of characters, some who decide to join him on his pilgrimage too. We learn more about Harold, and his wife Maureen, and of what she intends to do once she learns from her husband that he isn't returning from posting his letter, at least not until he has reached Berwick, and we learn about Queenie and their relationship.
This is truly a beautiful story. It is, at times, both heart-breaking and funny but at it's core is that there is goodness to be found in everybody and everything. From the wildlife and scenery that Harold describes as he walks the A roads to Berwick, to the people who listen to his story and help him on his way by offering him food, a bed for the night, or a stamp so he can write to Queenie and tell her where he is now. Alongside this are the illustrations that accompany each chapter which are gorgeous, making the whole package very special.
As a reader, all you can do is wait and turn the pages hoping that indeed, Queenie will survive long enough for Harold to reach his destination and of what their reunion will be like after all this time apart. Read it, I urge you.
And once you have read it, Rachel Joyce has written a companion novel to this one. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey was published on the 9th October and I am taking part on the blog tour so you can find out what I think of the second book next week!