Monday, 2 July 2012

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rachel Joyce is an award winning English playwright and this is her first novel. Six years ago Rachel wrote The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as a play for BBC Radio 4 and it won an award for the best radio play. The play was written with her father, who had cancer at the time, in mind.

Rachel had wanted to write a book for many years and was persuaded by her colleagues to write “Harold’s” story as a novel. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Rachel said "looking back, doing the book was about trying to keep my dad alive.”  She wanted to write a story that didn’t quite fit the rules and make the implausible, plausible … and she succeeded. Rachel wrote the novel during the six-month Writing A Novel course run by The Faber Academy in London, also attended by SJ Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep.

Harold has retired and lives with his wife Maureen in a southern English town. Maureen’s a bit of a shrew and criticises him all the time and poor Harold wears it without a murmur.

He then receives a letter from a work colleague he hasn’t seen for 30 years. She writes that she is in a hospice and wants to thank him for his friendship many years before and to say goodbye.

Harold immediately writes to her and sets out to post the letter. He contemplates at the post box and decides to move on to the post office. When he reaches the post office he makes the amazing decision to just deliver it in person. The problem is that he lives in southern England and the hospice is in the north of the country 627 miles away!

And so his pilgrimage begins. Sounds implausible I know but the people he meets along the way, even the television crews makes this a quirky story with many surprising dimensions. I’ve had readers who didn’t want it to end as they loved it so much.

Erica Wagner from The Times said “From the moment I met Harold Fry I didn’t want to leave him. It’s impossible to put down”.

Faber Academy in Sydney at Allen and Unwin have lots of upcoming writing courses, have a look at their website for more details. You could be the next Rachel Joyce or SJ Watson!

The Faber Academy at Allen and Unwin

1 comment:

  1. As I read this, I kept thinking that the author had in mind that it should be made into a tv miniseries or movie. I was, therefore, very unsurprised to discover that she is a scriptwriter. I thought the book read like a somewhat extended synopsis. Anyone who's ever done a creative writing class will probably have been exhorted to "show, don't tell". Ms Joyce would do well to bear that in mind.

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