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
“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)
The subject matter was mildly interesting.
A gentle rambling tale, that is too long by far.
Jim Broadbent is the only redeeming feature of this audiobook. His narration is top drawer.
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.
The girl from the garage visiting Harold's wife
I'm not sure - but I did picture Harold Fry in my head as someone that looks like Jim Broadbent!
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.
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!
i havent read it
at times i thought he was a bit mumbly and i had to go back and listen to what he was saying
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
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.
"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.
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.
i have the audio edition
Harold I learned a lot from him
Harold and his jotting shoes
It is highly unlikely that one would find a story of an eldery man who decides to walk the length of England interesting. So why was this one of the best books I have had the pleasure of listening to - ever?
The story unfolds slowly, almost languidly. A man hears that his friend is dying and decides on the spur of the moment, in his boat shoes, plastic bag in his hand, to walk to her. On the way he meets obstacles, loses himself, rediscovers himself, and meets all kinds of people. He becomes a larger than life figure, then a metaphor. Will he make it? Will she die before he gets there? The story feels like an allegory for life's journey - but is told well and is full of humour and pathos.
The real magic here is in the narration. Jim Broadbent is one of the greatest character actors working now. Here he brings all of his gifts to the story - and it is astonishing. His pace is perfect, his voices individual and characterful. His performance transforms the audiobook - from good to nearly perfect.
gentle, sad, wonderful
Harold - he was the only main character everyone else was secondary really. I loved the way this otherwise normal, boring man, did something totally out of his comfort zone. He discovered himself along the way.
Harold, we get to know him very well. Jim Broadbent is the best narrator I've listened too so far. Excellent pace, doesn't try to imitate a lady's voice. We can picture Harold when we hear Jim's voice talking.
I think the title is great. It aptly expresses what the book is about.
Don't expect a racy drama. This is a beautiful story of human nature, and the pace and limited number of characters make it perfect for listening to in the car.I'm don't find many audio books particularly easy to listen to, but this is by far my favorite audio book, I hope Jim Broadbent will do more in the future.
"An enjoyable tale"
An unusual listen and although it's not entirely believable; it was an enjoyable story.
Harold makes for an interesting central character and I loved the fact that he was rather 'plain' as a key player.
It was a lovely story about human endurance, commitment and the fact that lessons are there to be learned regardless of our age.
"Far more to this uplifting story than I imagined"
Surprising, motivational, satisfying
Like Harolds journey, the book kept moving, each chapter as rewarding as the last
His quality that he delivers in everything that he does
"I'll drive you next time Harold"
I was looking forward to a well written, slow and pleasant story. It was certainly well written. I didn't expect action and fast paced but when I was 5 hours in and Harold realised that he had spent a whole day walking in the wrong direction I couldn't take it anymore. At that point I really did question whether I would regret going the full journey with him and decided I didn't want to risk telling myself 'I told you so' if I carried on.
"One of my better downloads!"
What a lovely book. I relied on the reviews of others and did not regret it. Beautifully read, thought provoking. Even if the story doesn't always go as you would wish, because that is life, a thoroughly enjoyable experience, to be recommended.
I don't generally read this type of book but I was persuaded by a friend and I'm glad I did. The idea of a retired man going out to post a letter and then walking half the length of the UK without proper footwear and clothing is enthralling and overall I enjoyed the book.
I loved the way Rachel Joyce developed the character of Harold and his wife and how their relationship throughout the years became the sub-plot. Harold is an unlikely hero but I grew to love him and urged him on his way with every sentence and every unravelled secret from his life.
It probably is a lesson in not judging people as you never, ever know what they've been through in their lives to bring them to that place.
Lovely, gentle book and I would recommend it.
Just lovely. Like Harold's pace it starts slowly but wills you along to the journey's end. I felt so sad when I'd finished.
I'd hoped for something special & was disappointed. Too slow & impossible to relate to. Too much emphasis on death & not enough humour to compensate
Listened at high speed in order to get it over with
One of my all time favourite books - but has to be enjoyed with its companion book the love song of queenie hennesey.
Harold - the goes from Mr Beige blend into the background to discovering himself
How all the characters had bags of personality and sounded so different
Listen - you'll not regret it
"A hidden gem"
What a beautiful book. As the pilgrimage continues, more and more is revealed of the characters lives and regrets.
Ii was one of those books I didn't want to end.
"Superbly narrated and worthy of all the hype"
Jim Broadbent's narration. I wasn't sure what to expect from him, but every character came alive: it was a true performance, rather than a reading.
It really put me in mind of The Remains of the Day. The setting of a journey and of the protagonist's story told in memories, as well as the ideas of coming to terms with one's life as they reach what is described in Remains as 'the autumn' of it.
The way he seamlessly went from one character to another without my even having to think who was speaking. It was always so obvious, not just because he did different voices but by the general atmosphere he created. Some chapters were with Harold, some with Maureen, and Queenie, but although it's all written in the third person Broadbent still managed to convey things in the mental voice of whatever character the chapter was focusing on.
There were many such moments, but the ones that stick out are when we discover the full situation about Harold's son, and the final scenes between Harold and Maureen.
Sometimes these guided reviews ask: 'Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one setting?' For me the answer is definitely yes; in fact, I listened in two parts and basically put my life on hold today to finish it. Looking forward to hearing Queenie's story.
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