Archive for August, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

There’s lots of buzz about this book at the moment, and I thought it might be a good “take away” for holidays. I was right. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce fit the bill perfectly. Harold and his wife Maureen live in Kingsbridge in the south of England, existing side by side with Harold’s silence, and Maureen’s nagging and over zealous house cleaning, part of their everyday life. One morning, the recently retired Harold receives a letter from a former co-worker he hasn’t had any contact with for 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in a hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, some 600 miles north of Harold, and she is writing to say goodbye. Harold feels compelled to write back and sets out for a quick walk to post his letter. A chance encounter with a young girl convinces Harold that instead of dropping his letter in the mail he must deliver his message in person. He believes that as long as he keeps walking Queenie will live. So, wearing only his yachting shoes and a light coat, Harold embarks upon the walk of all walks to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. I must admit that I’ve never looked at a map in the front of a book as much as I did when I was reading this. I needed to follow his progress bit by bit. Maureen thinks he’s gone bonkers, and decides to have a chat with her doctor about Harold’s behavior. The subsequent pages about her attempt to register with the receptionist, then her actual visit with a substitute intern provided some of the funniest bits in the book I think. Along the way Harold meets one fascinating character after another, and as you can imagine has ample time to relive many of the moments and feelings buried deep in his heart that he’s just as soon forget.  Just when I thought the book was getting a bit “hokey” Rachel pulls it back on track. Though I have to admit that I didn’t like the ending at all. But, that said, it’s a great summer read with lots of humour, tender moments, and insight, and it’s a wonderful first novel from Rachel Joyce.

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Boy oh boy, this book is timely & terrific! British writer, Chris Cleave’s book Gold  is set in London, in the cycling  world, with the 2012 Olympic games being the goal of the competitors, and he’s done a gold medal job! It’s brilliant! Sitting in front of the TV watching the events while reading this book is about as “Olimpified” as you can get. Gold is the story of Kate & Zoe, two young cyclists who are not only friends but rivals in the cycling world, competing in events together, and trying to land the single spot to represent Britain in the 2012 Olympics. Cleave does such a great job of getting into the cyclist’s head that I actually began to wonder if he’s a cyclist himself. Zoe & Kate are as different as day and night, and their lives veer off in opposite directions as soon as they dismount from their bikes. Kate’s life revolves around training sessions, winning medals, hubby Jack and dealing with daughter Sophie who is seriously ill with leukemia. Zoe’s life revolves around… nothing but training and winning (she is one seriously messed up young woman). But they share a common bond (which I won’t tell you about because I’m not a spoiler). It’s a fantastic story, really well written, and I think it’s smashing that any writer can pull off a book like this – so into the cyclist’s psyche and so appropriately timed to be the perfect add-on to watching the Olympics, especially the cycling. In the Author’s Note at the end of the book Cleve tells the readers that he shadowed a consultant hematologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. And he says “Parents and staff alike seemed to step up into a state of focused grace in which all worldly concerns were cast off until all that remained was love. As a researcher, it was like being embedded with angels.” How beautiful is that.  And the connection between the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in the opening ceremony (you poor folks who watched the taped version at night missed this part entirely) and Cleave’s connection with this hospital… what a coincidence! Get this book NOW and read it while you’re still full of Olympic fever. You won’t be disappointed.

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