The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce

2012 is proving to be a year of remarkably assured debuts. We included Patrick Flanery's Absolution a couple of weeks ago. Today, it's the turn of Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The author of many radio plays, Joyce has fashioned a story that is whimsical and moving, funny and serious. One morning, the titular Harold Fry receives a letter from old friend Queenie Hennessy, informing him she is dying of cancer in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Scotland. It's been 20 years since Harold last saw her, and he begins wondering why. Trying - and failing - to write his own letter (of condolence), Harold goes for a walk and doesn't stop until he reaches Queenie, 800 kilometres away. His logic? 'I am going to walk and she's going to live. I'm going to save her.' Harold's wife is understandably shocked: 'Let me get this clear. You're walking to see Queenie Hennessy?' As so often in narratives of this sort, the journey is inner as well as outer. Harold reviews his life - his work, marriage and son, David. He is gradually joined by hordes of disciples, looking for answers to life's mystery. I was charmed and amused and left a wiser, if sadder, human being.