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  • Published: 1 May 2012
  • ISBN: 9781446488645
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

The uplifting and redemptive No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller

A tender, quietly comic, heartstopping and very British coming of (old) age novel from a powerful new voice in fiction.

Since his retirement, sixty-two year old Harold Fry has done nothing but mow the lawn, and infuriate his wife by filling in the easy answers on her Telegraph crossword. Then an unexpected letter arrives from a woman he hasn’t seen in twenty years who’s dying of cancer.

Harold realises that sending a reply isn’t good enough. He is going to walk; all the way from Devon to Berwick on Tweed. So long as he keeps walking, his friend Queenie will keep living. It is an impulsive, terrifying, beautiful and irrational act of faith made by a man who has spent most of his life in a chair.

Harold Fry’s epic and unplanned journey north will cover over 500 miles of ever-changing English landscape. He will meet some good people, and some not good ones; he will briefly become a national celebrity, and he will almost lose his way altogether. But it is his awakened faith in the power of one human being to help another that is the heart of the book. As he confronts the mistakes and losses of his past, and the tragic secret at the heart of his marriage, Harold’s inner journey will prove as transformative as his physical one.

Left behind, Harold’s wife, Maureen, will also go on a journey. And what has begun as a story about two wasted lives becomes a celebration of a man on his two feet, and the power of connecting.

  • Published: 1 May 2012
  • ISBN: 9781446488645
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

About the author

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty-six languages and two are in development for film.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.

She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

Also by Rachel Joyce

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Praise for The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

One of the sweetest, most delicately-written stories I've read in a long time. One man's walk along the length of England to save the life of a dying woman. Each chapter describes a different encounter along the way, with a definite nod to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Philosophical, intriguing, and profoundly moving.

Richard Madeley, Foyles website

Uplifting, funny and delicate

Jon Stock, The Daily Telegraph

At times almost unbearably moving.

Sunday Times

A brilliant and charming novel: full of comic panache yet acute and poignant.


one of the most moving, uplifting, inspiring novels I've ever read

Richard Madeley

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a funny book, a wise book, a charming book – but never cloying. It’s a book with a savage twist, and yet never seems manipulative. Perhaps because Harold himself is just wonderful...This book may follow a pattern set by another radio dramatist-turned-novelist, David Nicholls, whose One Day has now sold more than a million copies and been made into a successful film simply because one reader said to another ‘I love this book’ over and over again. So I’m telling you now: I love this book.

Erica Wagner, The Times


Deborah Orr, Guardian

A terrific book, comic and sad and very honest. Harold is a wonderfully-drawn character... his story is at the same time emotionally gruelling and yet ultimately uplifting.

Joanne Harris

a gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation

Oprah Magazine

Life-affirming delight. A comic pleasure.

Woman and Home

A tender, funny debut about second chances and regained love as a man takes to the road on an unusual quest.

Marie Claire

The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching.

Claire Tomalin

Compelling and truly wonderful. It made me laugh out loud at times and brought tears to my eyes. There are sentences that are just brilliant and well observed.

David Headley, Goldsboro Bookshop

I was completely blown away. I thought I was about to read a comic novel but what can I say - it was indeed funny, but tender, ironic and deeply moving, a really wonderful book.

Pat Abrehard, Harbour Bookshop, Kingsbridge, Devon

Harold Fry is infuriating, hilarious and completely out of his depth, but I held my breath at his every blister and cramp and, felt, as if by turning the pages, I might help his impossible quest succeed. Marvellous!

Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn't want to leave him. Impossible to put down.

Erica Wagner, The Times

Tender and funny, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry shows that even our frailties can be uplifting and redemptive.

Edward Stourton

A delightfully original and engaging debut.

Rebecca Frayn

I loved this book. I loved its purity, its brutality and unerring honesty. I don't think I have read such richly composed metaphors before. They are like shooting stars glittering across each page. I can't believe this is her first novel- I wait with bated breath for her next.

Natascha McElhone

Harold's unlikely pilgrimage takes him the length of the country - and into the deepest parts of himself. This beautifully written tale is by turns funny, touching, farcical and heroic. A very unusual and uplifting debut.

Isabel Wolff

This book is like a naive painting: simple and profound. It is a moving story , full of heart, laced through with wry wit. I loved Harold and Maureen and their separate journeys. It felt like a celebration of being alive, being human. Beautiful!

Niamh Cusack

Accomplished BBC playwright Joyce’s debut novel is a gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion. Sure to become a bookclub favorite.


Joyce’s beguiling debut is another modest-seeming story of ‘ordinary’ English lives that enthralls and moves you as it unfolds.

People Magazine 4* Review

Tender and profound, fresh and funny, a debut that provokes thoughts of reconciliation

Marie Claire, Italy

[Joyce] has created, with admirable ease, the kind of character whom readers will struggle to forget, who is genuine from the very beginning... emotionally gripping... a 21st-century morality tale that ultimately, and perhaps surprisingly, celebrates the kindness of strangers

The Independent

Impressive... Tender and thought-provoking

Choice Magazine

A moving, redemptive story

The Lady

[Harold's] tragicomic journey has the affecting simplicity of a modern-day parable

Sunday Telegraph

I found myself taking days over it just because I wanted to savour every few pages. An enchanting, gentle book.

Nathaniel Parker, Daily Express

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