Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry By Rachel Joyce
This was the first of my summer read this year, and while the comments on the back promised both comic relief and heartbreak, I was completely unprepared for my feelings after reading it. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is now a couple of years old, and while it has been critically acclaimed and achieved bestseller status, it seems to be one of those books that people have been meaning to read but never actually get around to reading.
This is, quite simply, a tragedy. I think we could all learn a little something from Harold Fry. His attitude to life while on his pilgrimage is so honest that it is impossible not to want to change your own life. In the achingly simple reason behind his journey – to save his friend – Harold demonstrates what I think we all want a little of: faith. I don’t mean this in a religious way, and neither does Rachel Joyce, I mean simply that a little faith in something as simple as human generosity would go a long way in modern life. Harold’s reliance on total strangers to help him on his journey highlights how something as simple as a cheese sandwich and lemonade could help someone overcome deep emotional trouble similar to what Harold experiences. The novel tackles deep emotional issues along with a few mental health issues too (alzheimer’s, addiction and depression are all explored), particularly the way in which society treats these issues as taboo. The delicacy with which Joyce approaches this difficult subject allows for a touching and personal feel which provides a great support for those who suffer with similar problems.
Okay, so now that I’ve talked on about how deep the novel is, I’d like to finish on a lighter note. Namely that while it is at times heart-breaking and at others heart-lifting, it is also a very funny book. Even during the moments that made me cry (yes I’m afraid there will be tears) I found myself laughing. Harold is a typical English old man and with that comes the humour expected. So before you write the novel off as too weepy and deep to relax with, I encourage you to try it as you will not regret it.