Thursday 5 November 2015


Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry  is the story of a sweet-tempered old man on a pilgrimage to save his friend – or rather on a pilgrimage through his past life and his marriage.

Alternate chapters tell of his progress and of his puzzled wife Maureen, who has been left behind and is waiting for him to come home:
Now, without Harold, the endless passage of days flowed one into the other and she watched them with apathy, not knowing how to fill them.
I too am sometimes waiting for my man to come home, refusing to believe that there is no return from death.
On his journey, Harold becomes aware of his mortality:
With or without him, the wind would go on, rising and falling. The land would keep stretching ahead until it hit the sea…He looked back, and already there was no trace, no sign of him anywhere.
Harold does come home in the end, and Maureen takes his hand in hers. Despite the strangeness of the past weeks, she knew this hand so well.

How does Rachel Joyce manage the twists in the story?
I draw on what I know, she says. I fabricate and weave from there… Those small pieces of truth play in my head, I suppose, and rearrange themselves however man years later into a story. It’s a gentle story, perhaps too gentle to be more than wishful thinking.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every pilgrimage ended in enlightenment?

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