This novel is indeed an unlikely story of how to resolve human relationships. But it is original and highly entertaining.
The reader follows Harold Fry closely from the moment he sets out to walk from his house in Kingsbridge in the southern tip of England on the English Channel, to a hospice in the very north of England in Berwick-upon-Tweed at the Scottish border.
For one thing, Harold Fry is a loveable character – unsure of almost everything he ever did, except falling in love with his wife and then, at this point in time, deciding to make this walk. There are family tragedies that became more than he could live with. When an old friend from work wrote from the hospice, he was struck by the idea that walking to see her would keep her alive. It did more than that. His wife came back from her own private hell of misery and drove up to see him. Many hundreds of people along the way heard of his walk, and came out to confess their own stories and in fact join in the pilgrimage. It remains Harold’s private story, however, and Rachel Joyce does a brilliant job of making it believable.
Joyce has spent twenty years in an acting career as well as writing award-winning plays for the BBC Radio 4. She lives on a farm in Gloucestershire with her husband and four children and is now working on her second novel.
Review by Anne McDougall