Friday, June 08, 2012

Fiction Friday

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first came to my attention with a recommendation by this Sunday Times columnist.  I like her novels and I find her funny; I also trust her judgement when it comes to reading, so when she raved about it I was quick to download it onto my kindle.  It didn't disappoint.  Joyce's novel began life as a radio play in 2006, when her father was diagnosed with cancer "it was a way of trying to keep him alive". 

The book begins by introducing the main character Harold Fry and his wife as he receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, telling him that she has cancer and not long to live.  Queenie and Harold were work colleagues but hadn't been in touch for many years.  Harold was moved by her letter and quickly penned a short reply, setting off to post it on foot at the post box at the bottom of the street.  Instead of just posting the letter, he decides that he will walk to visit Queenie (in Berwick-on-Tweed) and he sets off on his Bunyanesque journey, convinced that as long as she knows he is coming, she will continue to live.  He passes through many towns and cities, Exeter, Warwick, Darlington, and he writes to Queenie "I am on my way. All you have to do is wait. Because I'm going to save you. I will keep walking, and you must keep living."  For Harold, the act of walking becomes an act of faith.  Along the way, as he atones for his mistakes, he meets a random cross-section of life and the people who inhabit it; It is a novel that touches on grief - Rex their neighbour who is coming to terms with the death of his wife - "I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. the only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It's like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it's there and keep falling in. After a while, it's still there, but you learn to walk round it."  But it's also a novel about hope and the ability of the human spirit to persuade the body to turn something normal like walking, into a courageous and redeeming act.  If you want to feel good, this is a book that will help you get there...

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