The story tells of an elderly man, Harold Fry, who receives a letter from an old flame dying from cancer in a hospice at the other end of the country. He writes a letter in response and leaves home to post it. Unable to do so because he feels it an inadequate response, he embarks on a journey of 627 miles, walking all the way. His quest develops into a belief that if he can get to Queenie, he will save her life. The novel recounts his journey and the plethora of characters he meets along the way and during which his marriage to Maureen and his own childhood is revealed. The story is laced with loneliness, with life’s numerous small disappointments, grieving, and it’s daily reality. But this is tempered with a sense of quiet celebration because his journey is both physical and metaphorical.
The group agreed the book read easily and for the most part was an engaging storyline. There was no doubt that parts were funny but equally some very poignant passages. It was felt that the storyline lapsed into the ‘sickly-sweet’, designed to tug at the heart strings. There’s no doubt the book is beautifully written and incorporated some memorable lines –
‘his clothes folded small as an apology’
‘he wasn’t so much walking to Queenie as away from himself’
‘For years they had been in a place where language had no significance’
Regarding Maureen, ‘her presence was like a wall you expected to be there, even if you don’t often look at it.’
Some considered that Harold was not a likeable figure. He was undoubtedly a victim of his upbringing, just as his father was a victim of serving in WW1but his incommunicative and cold attitude does not encourage empathy.
Maureen’s character develops from a woman frozen by grief into a person hopeful of the future by letting go of the past. She realises her priorities and rediscovers the emotions she felt during the early years of her and Harold’s relationship which have laid dormant for so long.
Rhoose Readers Reading Group