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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry | [Rachel Joyce]

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof, or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking - to save someone else's life.
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Publisher's Summary

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof, or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking - to save someone else's life.

Jim Broadbent has starred in a huge range of films, from British favourites including Bridget Jones and Hot Fuzz, to Hollywood blockbusters such as Moulin Rouge, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the Harry Potter films. In 2001 he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Iris. Most recently he starred as Denis Thatcher opposite Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady.

©2012 Rachel Joyce (P)2012 Random House AudioGo

What the Critics Say

“From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn't want to leave him. Impossible to put down.” (Erica Wagner, The Times)

“Harold Fry is infuriating, hilarious and completely out of his depth, but I held my breath at his every blister and cramp and, felt, as if by turning the pages, I might help his impossible quest succeed. Marvellous!” (Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand)

“A magical, moving and uplifting tale about a man's journey across Britain and into his own heart.” (Deborah Moggach)

“I loved this book. I loved its purity, its brutality and unerring honesty. I don't think I have read such richly composed metaphors before. They are like shooting stars glittering across each page. I can't believe this is her first novel- I wait with bated breath for her next.” (Natascha McElhone)

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry isn’t just a book I enjoyed reading, it’s a book I feel lucky to have read. It takes the most ordinary and unassuming of men and turns him into a hero for us all. Harold Fry faces the same questions we all do as we age, questions about the meaning of our lives, faith and love, but confronts them in a most surprising way. To go on this journey with him will not only break your heart, it might also just heal it.” (Tiffany Baker, New York Times bestselling author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County)

“Late last year the time came to pick 2012’s ‘new face’ for books: I read a pile of first novels and enjoyed a few, but there was only one I adored, and that was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry… It is a funny book, a wise book, a charming book – but never cloying. It’s a book with a savage twist, - and yet never seems manipulative. Perhaps, because Harold himself is just wonderful… This book may follow a pattern set by another radio dramatist-turned-novelist, David Nicholls, whose One Day has now sold more than a million copies and been made into a successful film simply because one reader said to another ‘I love this book’ over and over again. So I’m telling you now: I love this book…From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn't want to leave him. Impossible to put down.” (Erica Wagner, The Times)

“Distinguished by remarkable confidence... Polished to perfection... Joyce's experience as a playwright shows in her ear for dialogue and eye for character diatom - even the walk-on parts stay with you as real people. She handles her material with deceptive lightness but Harold's journey towards a better version of himself is totemic. To read about him is to be moved to follow him.” (The Telegraph)

“This book is like a naive painting: simple and profound. It is a moving story, full of heart, laced through with wry wit. I loved Harold and Maureen and their separate journeys. It felt like a celebration of being alive, being human. Beautiful!” (Niamh Cusack)

“Life-affirming delight. A comic pleasure.” (Woman and Home)

“A tender, funny debut about second chances and regained love as a man takes to the road on an unusual quest.” (Marie Claire)

“The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching.” (Claire Tomalin)

“A wonderful book ... Full of sadness, hope, and ultimately love. I found it very moving.” (Esther Freud)

“Harold's unlikely pilgrimage takes him the length of the country - and into the deepest parts of himself. This beautifully written tale is by turns funny, touching, farcical and heroic. A very unusual and uplifting debut.” (Isabel Wolff)

“A delightfully original and engaging debut.” (Rebecca Frayn)

“Really enjoyable ... by turns moving, charming and very funny.” (Hugh Dennis)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (206 )
5 star
 (108)
4 star
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3 star
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4.3 (182 )
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1 star
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4.5 (185 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Mackenzie Petersham, Australia 02-04-13
    Mackenzie Petersham, Australia 02-04-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Made an old cynic weep"

    What a super novel. A great story with several stories within the main one and as they unfold, I was left inspired.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gertjan wageningen, Netherlands 01-23-13
    gertjan wageningen, Netherlands 01-23-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent! Moving and very light at the same time!"

    My wife picked this book, as I would never have picked about someone that walks out the door and keeps walking... However I was hooked in 5 minutes and needed to finish. Great characters, well written dialogs, storyline and great feeling to the overall story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Iris Lower Hutt, New Zealand 01-12-13
    Iris Lower Hutt, New Zealand 01-12-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very philosophical............."
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    Maybe?


    What other book might you compare The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to and why?

    'The Alchemist' both have that same thought provoking quality. Gives you insight into people, their hopes and dreams etc


    Have you listened to any of Jim Broadbent’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you could rename The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, what would you call it?

    No that's a good title for it


    Any additional comments?

    Gives you food for thought, I enjoyed it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Guin Horsham, Australia 01-05-13
    Guin Horsham, Australia 01-05-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    11
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    "inspirational - well worth a listen"

    I hadn't heard anything about this book. Loved it from start to finish - I found it very inspiring.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Gubb Cape, ZA 01-01-13
    James Gubb Cape, ZA 01-01-13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Pretty Darn Average"
    Would you try another book from Rachel Joyce and/or Jim Broadbent?

    The subject matter was mildly interesting.


    What was most disappointing about Rachel Joyce’s story?

    A gentle rambling tale, that is too long by far.


    What does Jim Broadbent bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Jim Broadbent is the only redeeming feature of this audiobook. His narration is top drawer.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicole Aspendale Gardens, Australia 12-28-12
    Nicole Aspendale Gardens, Australia 12-28-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    20
    1
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    Story
    "Unexpected pilgrimage of Harold Fry - great story!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes - I already have. The story is well written, big belly laugh funny at times and culminates into the telling of the Fry family's very sad past.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    The girl from the garage visiting Harold's wife


    What does Jim Broadbent bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I'm not sure - but I did picture Harold Fry in my head as someone that looks like Jim Broadbent!


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Not an extreme reaction, i did get teary towards the end as more of the Fry's history was revealed, but the book also make me laugh quite a lot.


    Any additional comments?

    A really worthwhile read, I put my ear phones on and listened while I and cleaned out cupboards, I wanted to keep listening so I kept on cleaning!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Whigham edinburgh uk 12-23-12
    C. Whigham edinburgh uk 12-23-12

    caz

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    "picked up towards the end"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to be better than the print version?

    i havent read it


    Would you be willing to try another book from Rachel Joyce? Why or why not?

    yes


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    at times i thought he was a bit mumbly and i had to go back and listen to what he was saying


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 12-23-12
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 12-23-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    215
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    48
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    Story
    "Harold hunts for the meaning of life"

    This is a very enjoyable listen. It is the story of an old man who has become horribly stuck in a rut. He is living an empty life of mediocrity and is scarred by his failures and weaknesses as a human being. He goes out to post a letter and just carries on walking, a la Forrest Gump.

    His journey is not easy, and he experiences desperation and crisis on the way, but ultimately he grows as a person, learns to understand himself and to cope better with his demons. It is not a corny feelgood happy ending, but some things improve for Harold. In Harold's 'happy ending' we are not allowed to escape life's realities of death, loss and grief, but we can appreciate the value of the discoveries Harold makes.

    It is a moving story, grim at times. You engage with all the characters and you do want to keep listening to hear the rest of the story. It is also a very English story, and I'm not sure whether this would make it more or less enjoyable to someone who isn't from that country (as I am).

    It is a little bit twee and reminded very much of a serialised BBC radio play. There were also some aspects of the storyline which stretched my credulity a bit. If you don't want to spoil the story by seeing my examples of this, stop reading now:

    1. When the media find out about Harold's walk they camp outside his (wife's) house but they don't actually go out and find him, which would have been very easy to do.

    2. He sleeps rough and lives off wild plants for a while. I don't think you could do this sustainably in the English countryside

    This is why I couldn't quite give the storyline a 5. But I wholeheartedly recommend it nevertheless. The Narrator was magnificent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annie Allerton Sydney 12-19-12
    Annie Allerton Sydney 12-19-12 Member Since 2011

    DIY critic

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
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    Story
    "Superb perceptive, well-constructed story"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    "For years they had been in a place where language had no significance" This quote epitomizes the breath-taking originality of the imagery in this novel. Astoundingly well-written (first published novel), with characters beautifully explored and delineated in meaningful ways. The journey takes us through ordinary towns and people, but each presented fully as recognisable individuals, but again with originality. The nature and deterioration of Harold’s marriage to Maureen (“she liked her toast thin and cold” is beautifully told from the startling moments of Harold’s brief early happiness, through the destruction from Maureen’s grating bitterness and daily life to the final tragedy that clamped shut any giving between them, forms the background to the detail of his long walk. A death is described with beauty and believable meaning. People’s weakness and pettiness, and attempts at goodness are lovingly developed. Rachel Joyce must have a superb love and understanding of her fellow humanity.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tanya Dunedin, New Zealand 12-16-12
    Tanya Dunedin, New Zealand 12-16-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A wonderful book"

    I was wrapped in this book right from the first page. It is such a human tale. I cared so much about Harold Fry and his story, even though of course I knew it was fiction! There is much pain and sadness in this story but it is quiet and underlying. It is a thoughtful book and I found myself reflecting on Harold's story for many days after the completion of this audiobook. I loved the narration, he did a wonderful job.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 21-30 of 33 results PREVIOUS1234NEXT
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  • Mark
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    2/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Slow in the middle"
    Would you try another book written by Rachel Joyce or narrated by Jim Broadbent?

    The book overall story is great and thought provoking, but I found it a little slow in the middle and almost gave up on it. I;m glad I didn't, the ending is really nice and worth waiting for.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mikey
    poole, United Kingdom
    2/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Enjoyable, a feel good story."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    I found this audiobook was enjoyable for the most part, if not a little boring in places!


    Any additional comments?

    I would say this book was certainly worth listening to. It is nothing spectacular, but then not all books can be!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Crime Fiction Groupie
    High Wycombe, United Kingdom
    1/24/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Heart-breaking and uplifting"

    As this book seemed to be grouped with other quirky novels like Alex Woods or 100yo Man, I was expecting to be amused. However although there are many chuckles, it's a very different type of novel. In many ways it is desperately sad to see lives with so many missed opportunities, and such 'quiet desperation'. However, throughout there is a real sense of hope, ultimately realised. I really enjoyed the journey with Harold, and felt the reader accompanies him every step of the way. A huge call-out to Jim Broadbent for fantastic narration. This is one novel where having such a wonderful actor makes a huge difference. Very enjoyable and highly recommended performance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jenny
    essex, United Kingdom
    1/20/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Touching and heartwarming"
    Where does The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Read by Jim Broadbent it is a lovely story which has made me cry and laugh. I have really enjoyed this story of revelation and realisation made on a journey that becomes hijacked by well wishers. An insight into human nature, good and bad. British, middle class answer to Forest Gump.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was read by Jim Broadbent.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    Harold Fry phoned to speak to Qheenie Hennessey and he thinks she has died and he is too late. I wept buckets.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    A dog joins the pilgrimage.


    Any additional comments?

    The change in Harold Fry who was a private man who did not make friends, eventually having to take care of an unlikely band of misfits.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Louise
    Scalloway, United Kingdom
    1/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Utterly beguiling and beautifully read"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    I adore this book. It is one of those stories that you think you will like and it just smashes all your expectations


    What about Jim Broadbent’s performance did you like?

    Jim Broadbent added depth to the characters and his voice is like listening to an old friend.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Victoria Hulland
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    1/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Heart breakingly beautiful."
    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    When things begin to unravel for Harold and he is stripped emotionally bare.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The last 2 hours completely wrenched me apart.


    Any additional comments?

    So touching, beautiful, heart breaking and heart warming. Beautiful writing from the author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Judith
    Neston, United Kingdom
    12/14/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful"
    What did you like most about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    This was a lovely book to listen to whilst driving. The story captured you right from the start and developed with little twists and turns as it went along. It made you laugh, cry and think. What more could anyone want from a book?
    The narration by Jim Broadbent was easy and pleasant to listen to.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Helen
    Germany
    12/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Slow start, but worth keeping on"

    At the beginning I didn't like the story too much. It seemed to me the start was a little slow.... I often fell asleep while listening (but my eight month old daughter woke me often during the night so that might not be the books fault... Or it was just like it was for Harold, the beginning of the walk was exhausting). The way it was read made even harder for me at first, slow and a little too quiet for my taste. I started the book several times but finally a friend recommended it to me again and I decided I have to keep on a little longer than the first hour. I am so glad I did. The story was great: the characters had a believable and interesting development, it was realistic and well observed. The present story as well as the story of the past got more and more interesting and I realky liked the characters in the end. Highly recommend if you are interested in character development and the dynamics of relationships!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lisa
    Berwick, United Kingdom
    12/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Perfectly tragic"
    What did you like most about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    Firstly, I'm not one who likes to write reviews but I felt absolutely compelled for this book. This story is so ordinary and tragic it gripped me in a way that no other book has for a very long time. Deeply touching and... well... life. I can't recommend it enough.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Angus
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    12/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not bad, but no "100 Year Old Man""
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would have to say that it would very much depend on the friend in question. That may seem like a cop-out response, but I'm certain that some people will love this book - others though, like me, will just find it passable.


    Would you recommend The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to your friends? Why or why not?

    I would recommend it, as I think this is a book that will make a good topic for a book club as it raises some interesting issues. However, like elements of Harold's journey, I felt the book was a little bit all over the place. I kept thinking that it would have made a fantastic short story - but stretched to a full novel made it feel a little thin. And it seemed to me whole sections - particularly the parts with the other Pilgrims - were included just to fill a word count and added nothing to the main narrative of Harold's tale.


    What does Jim Broadbent bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    He really brought the old man to life - in fact in my mind Harold Fry is Jim Broadbent. If they ever make a film there would be no-one better to play him.


    Was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry worth the listening time?

    I enjoyed it, and listening to Jim Broadbent's narration was an absolute treat. However I never felt compelled to keep listening and I never felt I 100% connected with the book. Like Harold Fry himself I didn't feel like I was in a particular hurry to finish, but I knew I would get there in the end.


    Any additional comments?

    I came to this expecting something similar to the absolutely wonderful "100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared." It's difficult not to compare them - both about aging men who suddenly disappear on an adventure. But where as 100 Year Old Man was full of joy, Harold Fry was a little less carefree in attitude and I felt the story suffered for it. That's not to say I hated it, but it didn't quite live up to the high standard of the 100 year old man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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