These book reviews are coming at you thick at fast as I've managed to get through several books in the last few weeks. Hot on the heels of When God Was a Rabbit came the next book club choice. I was keen to read this book, having seen it in many bookshops and in plenty of magazines/newspapers - it even graced the pages of the TLS (although it didn't get a particularly good review.) So, without further ado, may I present: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
I was looking forward to reading this book, not least because it's a more 'current' book than many we read at either of the book clubs I go to (I have suggested to one of the book clubs that we make more of a point of reading recently-released [paperback] books and the idea seemed to go down well, so fingers crossed.)
Anyway, back to the book. The story goes something like this: Harold Fry, a retired man living (not altogether happily) with his wife in a neat little bungalow in Devon, recieves a letter from a former work colleague (Queenie) telling him she is suffering from terminal cancer and is writing to say goodbye. Harold writes a letter in response and walks to the nearby post box; but when he gets there he doesn't want to let go of the letter and decides to walk a little further to the Post Office, meaning to send it from there. But the Post Office comes and goes, as do more post boxes and soon Harold has made the decision to walk from his house in Kingsbridge, Devon to the care home in Berwick-upon-Tweed where Queenie is being looked after. He has the feeling that Queenie will survive the cancer long enough for him to get there.
So far, so interesting. And so the walk begins, through Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, the Midlands, and ever northward. Harold is ill-prepared and suffers quite considerably, but eventually he gets into his stride and begins to enjoy his adventure. As he walks he has lots of time to think about his life and we get to find out a lot of what makes Harold who he is - the good, the bad and and the often very ugly. Along the way Harold meets a variety of people and the story of his walk starts to hit the news, regional and then national. And that's where, for me, the story started to unravel. When Harold is joined by a large group of other 'pilgrims' I found that I was really put off by the characters and even Harold started to annoy me. Unfortunately, the book lost me here and I couldn't really get interested in it or care what was happening. All in all, I was disappointed by the book although, to give it its due, the end (or near end) wasn't what I was expecting and didn't conform to the cliche I was anticipating. It's probably my own fault for being disappointed by the story as I sort of expected it to be a little more of a 'travel' book with some descriptions of the towns, cities and villages that Harold passed through but, apart from Bath, there is little in the way of travel writing.
I'm not doing well at the moment, am I? Not many positive reviews recently. Sorry. I hope I'm not putting people off too much! Reading is very subjective though, isn't it? You only need to glance at the reviews on Amazon, for example, to see how any book can get 5 stars from one reader and 1 star from another.