The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

HaroldFryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry is a retired soft spoken, quiet gentleman. He seems to be existing rather than living. He shares his small home with his wife, Maureen: a woman who lives to complain, even silently finding ways to show her disapproval of everything Harold does. She cleans, she glares, makes disparaging comments about everything and is all-in-all…a real bummer.

One morning the mail arrives and their life changes upon delivery of a single letter. It’s addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl and from a woman, a former coworker of Harold’s, whom he’s not heard from in over 20 years. Queenie Hennessy writes from her hospice room to say goodbye and thanks for the friendship Harold extended many years ago.

While Maureen nibbles at a cold piece of toast, Harold writes out a quick note to Queenie then starts out for a morning walk to mail his reply. But a strange thing happens…he finds he cannot mail it, the response is inadequate and so, he decides to walk to another letter box and ponder memories of Queenie, his previous work, Maureen and his estranged son David. Eventually he decides he must deliver his message to Queenie in person. This is the start of his unlikely pilgrimage. A six hundred mile walk from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
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This is not an action book to be sure, it’s a study in human nature; our insecurities, hopes and resolution. Harold remembers particular events in his life- the losses, mistakes, regrets, passion, love and wonderful times. Just for the record (and this isn’t a spoiler) Harold is very devoted and in love with Maureen. He never had a romantic thing with Queenie and his pilgrimage isn’t a expedition to reunite with a long lost love. There are other things going on with Harold. Near the end of the book there are things revealed which I never saw coming. Much is explained about Maureen’s and Harold’s behavior.

Jim Broadbent is the narrator for the audio version. I read rather than listened to this book but a story read by Jim Broadbent must be good. I certainly enjoyed his portrayals of Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge as well as Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter. Great voice for narration.

Rachel Joyce is an excellent story teller and I will certainly look form more books from her in the future.

I liked reading how the scenery changed. The color of brinks was “no longer the color of flint but a warmer shade of red”…identifying flowers, ferns and birds as well as how the land changed terrain.

“Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways”

“I mean, it’s everywhere.” You have to keep positive though. You have to believe. That’s what I think. It’s not about medicine and all that stuff. You have to believe a person can get better. There is so much in the human mind we don’t understand. But you see, if you have faith, you can do anything.”

Food items I saw mentioned:

BBQ Cheese Beast with fries were served to Harold at the garage where he struck up a conversation with a young lady.

A breakfast where he had a full fry up including poached eggs.

Cheese sandwiches – “The nuttiness of the cheese and sweetness of the bread exploded onto his taste buds with such vigor it was as if he had never eaten before”

In the early years she had grown vegetables in the garden of Fossebridge Road…she took to looking up new recipes from the library. There were casseroles, curries, pasta, beans.

Maureen heated a small tin of tomato soup,….she used to love gardening. There wasn’t an inch of plot at Fossebridge Road that didn’t bear fruit or flowers. She had cooked every day. She had read Elizabeth David and took pleasure in seeking out new ingredients.
‘Today we are Italian,” she’d laugh, kicking open the door to the dining room and presenting David and Harold with asparagus risotto. Buon appetite.

Chicken curry, sherry trifle, tea served with toasted tea cakes………

When the neighborhood women discovered Harold’s mother left they brought over an abundance of food: casseroles, pies, jellied meat suet puddings, jams and fruit cakes.

“Please could I come in, Mrs. Fry?” Over tea and apricot flapjacks, the girl told her she was the one who gave him the burger all those weeks ago.

My representative dish a is a risotto. I didn’t make the asparagus risotto but tried one with onions, garlic, celery and too much wine. I did, however, learn from my mistakes with this recipe 🙂 Squirrel Head Manor has the correct recipe as well as a lesson in reading a recipe properly. RisottoFAIL

Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads.

More on Rachel Joyce
Literary Agent plus more authors


15 thoughts on “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

  1. What an interesting story! I know I’ve seen that book somewhere around my house. I’ll have to go back around and check. Thanks for this fun review and recipe.


  2. Pingback: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy | Novel Meals

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