The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry [Book Review]

July 29, 2018

Harold of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a Most Compelling Character

At month’s end I enjoy reflecting on the most memorable, compelling, or unforgettable character from the month’s reading.

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (cover) Image: purple and blue text on a light background with two small figures walking and a road in the distance

Genre/categories: Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Life Reflection, Quirky Character


Harold Fry is recently retired and lives in a small English village with his wife. After a long marriage, they have their differences but have settled into an amicable, predictable, and manageable daily routine. One day, a letter arrives for Harold from a woman (former co worker) that he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie is writing from a hospice to say goodbye. In the process of mailing his reply, Harold decides that he must deliver his message in person and decides to walk. As Harold impulsively sets out on his quest, he figures out the logistics of the six hundred mile journey as he goes. On the way he meets interesting people, finds plenty of time to reflect back on his life, and confronts some unsettling thoughts and feelings that he has buried.

Amazon Rating: 4.3 Stars

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Meet Harold Fry

Like many of us, Harold has managed to survive life’s circumstances. His mother abandoned him and his father had little time for him and shoved him out the door when he was sixteen. Harold survived a less than meaningful job, an angry boss, and his marriage has lost its shine. Despite difficult circumstances, he was a responsible employee, a faithful and loyal husband, and did the best he could. Like some of us, he also suffered a personal tragedy (which I can’t describe here because it is a spoiler). On this pilgrimage to deliver his letter to Queenie, Harold finds that the solitary act of walking offers a new perspective and this new pace gives him time to notice things and the time to thoughtfully reflect on the past and evaluate his actions and decisions. On this sometimes treacherous journey, he examines regrets and accepts loss, wrestles with grief and faith, and finds joy, healing, and acceptance.

“Life was very different when you walked through it.”

The journey itself is a metaphor for life. Despite life’s disappointments, he’s determined to do something about it. Harold sets a goal, is faced with challenges, overcomes difficulties, meets an assortment of people, and benefits from the help and compassion of many good people along the way.

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others.”

Honest and authentic, Harold is truly an unforgettable and compelling character.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is recommended for readers who appreciate poignant themes, a quest for meaning and purpose, and beautiful, thoughtful, and reflective writing. Even though it’s character driven, this endearing story has just enough drama and plot to keep you engaged. This story might appeal more to older readers who have faced more of life’s challenges and disappointments. Great book club selection, too!

Rachel Joyce, author of The Music Shop, has become one of my favorite authors, and I’m glad I read this back title that I missed somehow when it was first published.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 Stars on Goodreads)

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Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Information Here

Meet the Author, Rachel Joyce

Rachel JoyceRachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Prize and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards New Writer of the Year in 2012. She is also the author of the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.


Who was the most compelling character from your reading this month?

(Edited to add) Have you read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, or The Music Shop, or Miss Benson’s Beetle?

Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read about half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)

Looking Ahead:

 I look forward to providing a July wrap up on 7/31. I’m currently reading An American Marriage (I’ve read mixed reviews of this Oprah Book Club selection so we’ll see how it goes).

An American Marriage

Amazon Information Here

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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.


25 thoughts on “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry [Book Review]

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