Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning a letter arrives, addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl, from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
But before Harold mails off a quick reply, a chance encounter convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry embarks on an urgent quest. Determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice, Harold believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. A novel of charm, humour, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts.
It would be quicker to list what we didn’t talk about this month!
Harold Fry gave us a very deep pool to draw from; life journey, childhood, relationships, reflection, memory, atonement. In fact, it seemed there was no emotion or human condition that was left untouched.
In general our group felt empathy for Harold, all be it combined with a good measure of frustration.
Most of us related to the healing effects of walking and Chris believed Harold’s pilgrimage represented life’s journey – in which no one can be truly prepared for, and that the voyage is the key, not the destination. This theme runs thick throughout, but there is much more in this novel. The rag tag group that latched on to Harold along the way had us lamenting the role of the media and the ability of other people to push their own agenda. This we felt was all well written and portrayed in a realistic light.
Well, a few of us felt slightly bogged down at times and Tera found the constant reflecting full of regrets too depressing. Viti saw a paralleling in the storyline with Julian Barnes’ novel A Sense of an Ending which we read last year, which not necessarily a negative, does tend to take any originality from a novel.
Nevertheless, we all scored this book six plus stars and took the walk with Harold and his highly prized shoes (what exactly did they represent?) voluntarily, and our reward was an engaging and poignant read.