“A book about a fairly average recently retired man who instead of posting a letter to his dying friend, ends up walking to the other end of the country to see her…it’s really good, I promise…” I said or something fairly close to that when I first tried to recommend this book to somebody and suddenly realised just how dull I made it sound. I find Harold Fry such a difficult book to describe because even the blurb doesn’t do justice to it’s brilliance and I can honestly say I’ve never read a book quite like it.
At the beginning of the journey, Harold’s focus is solely on Queenie, his friend on her deathbed but the further he gets, the more you realise that the journey is as much about Harold, his wife Maureen and all of the disciple-like followers and regular people who join in as news quickly spreads about Harold’s trip. For Harold and Maureen, the time apart allows them to each look back over their lives and try to make sense of both the good and bad times, their regrets and failed wishes. Through flashbacks, it seems that Harold and Maureen are in a sort of rut and both are feeling jaded by life but examining their memories, they become aware that there is always hope, something which Harold tries to impart to his followers and us as readers generally.
There are some genuinely funny bits but it isn’t a comic novel, it’s a feel good, life affirming novel that deserves all the praise it gets. I can honestly say that it’s a rare book as I have never heard of anybody who has read this novel and not raved about how good it is – I certainly count myself amongst them.