text and images Britt-Arnhild
We celebrated my father´s 80th birthday last night.
Friends and family. A lot. And partying into the wee hours. Never did I know that people aged 80+ have energy to keep on for hour after wonderful hour.
But I am not here today to talk about my father´s party, I am mentioning it just to let you know that because of the party I had no chance to prepare a Blue Studio Reading Group post yesterday. And then we slept long this morning, and now we have quite a few things to do to clean up after the party. But I just told Terje, please give me half an hour, will you, I REALLY HAVE TO START POSTING in my blog.
So here I am, up in the Blue Studio, listening to Terje cleaning dishes down in the kitchen, knowing that I should be with him.....and I will as soon as I have started the discussion here......
So here we wre.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
I wrote Racel an email a little more than a week ago, and here is her reply to our group:
Please send my thanks and greetings to your reading group. I am sending some questions over to you - so I hope they give you some more things to think about. I would love to know how you feel this very English setting comes across in Norway!
With best wishes,
And here are the questions.
Harold’s journey is both physical and metaphorical. He is not the only character in the novel to go on a journey and Rachel Joyce has said that writing the book was in itself a journey. What other literary journeys does this novel call to mind?
Harold says he is not a religious man but his journey is called a pilgrimage and it is undoubtedly a leap of faith. How much and how consciously do you feel Rachel Joyce draws on Christian tenets and/or other belief systems in the novel?
Harold is a man with many flaws. Despite, or perhaps because of this, do you see him as an archetypal Englishman? Or is he an Everyman?
When we first meet Harold and Maureen, at the breakfast table, they seem in different worlds. To what extent did you see Maureen as the cause of Harold’s departure?
The mental health of several characters is called into question in the novel. Depression, Alzheimer’s and addiction are all diseases that touch many of us and yet mental illness remains to a great extent taboo in our society. How is Rachel Joyce using this? Do you find it effective?
Harold and Maureen are married but both are lonely. The couple Harold meets at Buckfast Abbey travel together but have also lost sight of what holds them together. What makes a marriage happy? How much is romantic happiness about being a pair and how much about other people and interests?
At the start of the book both Harold and Maureen have allowed friends to fall by the wayside. This story is about how we all connect with one another. What makes someone a true friend and how does Rachel Joyce represent friendship?
Regret is an emotion that plays a key part in the novel. Do you think Rachel Joyce sees it as a positive or negative force?
Is Harold’s relationship with David the inevitable result of Harold’s own upbringing?
Rachel Joyce writes beautifully about the English countryside – but how crucial to the telling of her story is the actual landscape she describes? How would it change the novel if it was set in Scotland, perhaps, or France, or...?
The sea provides bookends for the novel and plays a vivid part in Harold’s memories. Is this significant?
How does Rachel Joyce use food and the sharing of food in the novel?
How much are Harold’s responses to his fellow pilgrims dictated by his past?
Was the ending of the novel a shock or the inevitable conclusion?
Who saves who in this novel?
Has The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry inspired you to do something out of the ordinary – take a journey? Renew contact with someone? Look at strangers with a new perspective? Do share your response at: www.facebook.com/unlikelypilgrimageofharoldfry
I´ll be back SOON, but now I HAVE to run down to help Terje!
The post will be updated several times during the day.
Harold Fry is not the person in the book who made the most impression on me. It is Queenie Hennessy. We hear so little about her, only that she has a very special place in Harold Fry´s heart, but slowly she is revealed to us. I wondered for a short time if there had been an affair metween Harold and Queenie, but knew that it had to be something different from sex.
If we look upon the pilgrimage as a metaphor, she is for me the one to give her life to save Harold and Maureen.
This book has so many layers.
I am still reflectin on them.
Your comments are helping me on this journey.
I´ll try to comment, but can´t promise to come back to all.
By the way, the photos are from England/St.Albans in May 2012.
What to read next?
This is our list so far:
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
Will be discussed Sunday February 17th
The Jewels of Paradice, by Donna Leon
(In the Silence)
Will be discussed Sunday February 24th
A Month in the Country, by J.L.Carr
Will be discussed Sunday March 3rd
Nominations are open.
By next weekend I´ll make a list and we can vote for the March 10th discussion.