You know when you just pop out to the post office to send a letter and end up walking to Scotland? Gosh, I hate when that happens.
This book is a little like that very pretty teenage girl who puts too much make up on for no reason.
There is no denying that Rachel Joyce can write. Her narrative is slow, meditative and soulful. It would be enough to carry this book without the help of fireworks or gimmicks.
It’s a story of Harold Fry setting off on a sort of secular pilgrimage to save an old friend Queenie who is dying of cancer in a hospice.
Harold Fry could easily do this self-discovery journey on his own. He didn’t need a host of random characters sharing deep revelations about life and human nature as if they were reading Hallmark cards.
"The people he met, the places he passed, were all steps in his journey, and he kept a place inside his heart for each of them."
Also, there was absolutely no need of teasing the reader with secrets to be revealed at the end of the book. In the beginning the narrator tells us that Queenie did this THING for Harold, so he owes her. But we’re not told what, of course. It will be mentioned a few times but the information of what exactly she did for him is withheld for no narrative reason (it is not a secret to any of the characters, only to the reader). We also know there is something clearly dodgy going on about Harold’s son – David, but again we’re not told what and why for no apparent reason.
This book didn’t need those manufactured secrets because it had enough of drive to keep itself going forward regardless. I particularly liked the description of Harold’s marriage to Maureen - a story of two people who were once passionately in love and now they just politely exist together in a very English way. I liked how quiet it was and it stayed clear from over-blown emotions and I’m sure I’d appreciate it more if I read in about 20-30 years from now. It’s good to live a life before reading this book.