Author: Rachel Joyce

Publisher: Black Swan

Publication Date: 2014

Category: Adult Fiction

Paperback: 380 pages

RRP: $19.99



What’s On My Shelf ~

Debbie’s Review

I bought my copy of this book at the River Read in Noosa back in August 2019. At some point, I would like to complete a pilgrimage starting in France to cross the Pyrenees Mountains and continue through Spain along the St James Way, also known as the Camino. 

My eye is attracted to stories where someone sets out on a journey and encounters lots of adventure. I don’t regard myself as an adventurer, really, however, I guess there is a smidgeon of it in me as to why else would I want to do a 1000 km walk?

The character, Harold Fry in the story is different to me; at least I know I want to do a long walk. But Harold didn’t know he wanted to, in fact, felt he needed to do, a long walk until he walked to the letterbox to post a letter.


“When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.

He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. 

To save someone else’s life.”

One of the things that attracted me to purchase this book is it has a map. The map shows where Harold’s journey begins and where it ends. I am hooked from that point on.

From the moment I met Harold in the story, I fell in love with him and believed in him. I knew he would make this journey and I cared enough about him to want to find out the inciting moment; his call to action of his hero’s journey, the background of Harold and his wife Maureen and I especially needed to find out about Queenie.

Rachel Joyce’s writing is simplistic and yet complex as she unravels the mysteries surrounding Harold, Maureen and David, their only son. Her detailed observations along the way make the reader feel like they are right there, tagging along with Harold, except we can go and make a coffee or have a glass of wine at any point of the journey, whereas Harold doesn’t always have those liberties.

This is a paring-back story; where everything gets stripped away. In the beginning, Harold does start out his walk like a tourist, however, the more into the journey he goes, the more he realises he requires less and less materialistic objects, as well as money, a roof over his head and even down to the barest of food.

Another great aspect of the story is the people he meets along the way; complete strangers with their quirks and dollops of wisdom to share, whether Harold wants to hear or not.

I highly recommend this story to readers who enjoy adventures and relationships with others. The story itself is told compassionately, charming and is tender. It is a story of lost love that is put to the ultimate test and yet somehow manages to, not only survive but, regroup and recover.

In this particular copy, you will find a bonus extract of three chapters from Rachel’s newest book due out in October by Doubleday. It’s the other side of Harold’s story and is titled: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

Here is a link to an interview with Rachel Joyce about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Final Note

This book is not just about a long walk. For me, it is very much about having a belief in yourself that you can accomplish something that seems against the odds. Getting to the point where I ended up with a published children’s book called, If You Meet an Elephant, was like a pilgrimage of sorts; pushing through when things got tough, or when self-doubt struck. It happens to the best of us. So, if you are going through something mammoth in your life, do yourself a favour and read, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It will do you a world of good and hopefully, keep any self-doubts in check and inspire you to go forward onto great things.