The retired and ailing lower middle class hero of the novel sets off on a journey that he hadn’t intended or planned. Beginning on the south coast of Devon, he heads vaguely northwards, aiming for Berwick upon Tweed - some four hundred miles away. That is where a former work colleague is languishing in a hospice – victimised by cancer.
Harold Fry is in his yachting shoes when he sets off. He has his wallet and a letter from the hospice but little else.
Pilgrimages of the past were about plodding out the miles, meeting strangers along the way, mulling over life experiences, thoughts and feelings as much as they were about getting to the eventual destination. Not all pilgrimages were Christian. Stonehenge, for example, was certainly a place of pilgrimage many centuries before a Christian God came on the scene.
Rachel Joyce’s novel connects with those countless pilgrimages of yesteryear and as well as reaching the hospice in Berwick, Harold Fry is also unravelling and examining who he is, what is important to him and how he has been shaped by his past.
A great deal of his thinking surrounds his wife of forty six years – Maureen. When he set off, she had no idea that he was leaving but his departure causes her to scrutinise her own feelings and painful truths she buried years before.
“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” is quite a light read. It is easy to gobble up the pages – especially when one is on holiday. The book has its flaws but ultimately it is unashamedly humane, singing out with kind affection for those who live unremarkable lives. Like the people Harold meets along the way, everybody is different . You might say that behind our public facades, we are all like Harold Fry - trying to get by and generally failing to make much sense of our lives.
Meanwhile, a couple of pictures taken yesterday here in Crete:-
|Old friends at the Taverna To Sokakai in Epano Sissi - a small inland village|
|The harbour at Sissi|