Sunday, 12 August 2012

Book #69 The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce was originally born out of a BBC Radio Play, and now finds itself on the Booker Prize longlist for 2012, something which created some media surprise when it was announced.

Harold Fry is a sweet portrait of a man who has lived by all appearances an ordinary and mundane existence, who receives a letter from a dying friend; setting out to post his response he finds he cannot stop walking and eventually resolves to walk all the way to visit his old colleague Queenie Hennessy. It is not however, a short journey for Harold lives in Dorset and Queenie in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Quite why Queenie is so important is revealed slowly over the course of the novel, which is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. The style of prose has a fable like quality to it, and though the story packs a emotional punch with its terribly human psychology and identifiable feelings, the actual writing is fundamentally simplistic, making me wonder whether it is worthy of the Booker accolade, and certainly of winning it, though it is a nice nod to a sweet book.

I found the section where other people join in Harold's mission and hijack it for their own purposes really quite annoying, I have seen it done as a device in other novels which involve a mission or a cause and find it irritating. Essentially it's like the section in Forrest Gump when he runs on his own for ages. And that's the problem, this phenomena is quite un-British, and quite cheesily American, which is something that Harold Fry overall is not, Harold and his wife Maureen being quite quintessentially British which is the novel's central charm.

Though Harold's eventual reunion with Queenie is what I had expected all along, the novel is as with life about the journey not the destination. The end of the novel is incredibly touching, and you must have a heart of stone if you are not moved by the revelation towards the novel's close. 7/10

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