The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a beautiful, hopeful and heartbreaking book. It’s the story of a retired man from Kingsbridge who leaves his house one morning to post a letter, and ends up walking all the way to Berwick-Upon-Tweed in hope that he can save his friend Queenie, who he has not seen in 20 years.

On the surface, this book seems simple, just as walking does - putting one foot in front of the other. But in the middle somewhere, you are suddenly struck by the complexity of it. In the same way that Harold is not prepared for this journey, and neither was I as the book opens on a rather ordinary man with an ordinary life. What comes from it, from Harold’s spontaneous decision to walk across the country in his yachting shoes and a tie, is an at times overwhelming amount of insight into what it is to be human.

It unfolds slowly, as a walk across England might, revealing pieces of a life, of a man and his family, that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. Joyce keeps reminding us that we are all just like Harold Fry - complicated and simple, unique and, at the same time, all the same.

Sometimes it can be hard to relate to a book whose main character is so different from you, but this is not the case with Harold. Harold is all of us. He is a man who has made mistakes, who has lived and loved and done his best. Who lives with memories incredible regret and incredible joy, who finds it hard to believe in things, who says the wrong things, who often loses hope.

The characters that Harold meets on his journey are pieces of a puzzle that leads Harold to understand life, for the first time, and who help us to better understand Harold and his past.

Also, it made me cry.

Some favourite quotes:

“They believed in him. They had looked at him in his yachting shoes, and listened to what he said, and they had made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and to imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious.”

“Harold pictured the gentleman on a station platform, smart in his suit, looking no different from anyone else. It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.”

“He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.”

“Again he felt in a profound way that he was both inside and outside what he saw; that he was both connected, and passing through. Harold began to understand that this was also the truth about his walk. He was both a part of things, and not.”

A ressurection

Of sorts.

I’m not sure what this blog will be this time, but I’m starting slowly. I miss the time when I would post every second day, but my life has changed a great deal since then, and my creative outlets along with it. Not in a bad way, by any means, but they certainly have changed.

But, look, I have a new header!

I will most likely start with book reviews and go from there. No promises, no commitments (I’m not great with those…) but I will try, and see what comes of it.