May 2013 Club
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
I am writing to tell you a little about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a book by Rachel Joyce. There’s so much emotion tied up in this novel, that I think I’m going to struggle to summarise it for you – and I challenge you to read this book without getting a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye and yet not belly laugh at some of the moments.
Harold Fry is an unlikely hero – he lives a suburban life in a west country seaside town, hen-pecked by his wife, Maureen, and locked in a seemingly loveless marriage in a spotless house in which he’s afraid to touch anything for fear of being rebuked. Even their son, David’s room is kept clean and dust-free as Maureen is unsure when her beloved son will come back. Harold and Maureen are not really living, they’re just existing. “The net curtains hung between herself and the outside world, robbing it of colour and texture.”
One day, much the same as any other in his lingering retirement, Harold receives a letter which shakes him to the very core. It’s from Queenie Hennessy, a lady he used to work with in the brewery finance department, who relates the news that she is dying from cancer in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Unsure of the correct response, Harold pens a letter of response, and heads to the post box – but he fails to post the letter, and just carries on walking – at first to the next post box, then the next, and eventually, begins a pilgrimage to walk the length of the country in the yachting shoes that he left the house in, and personally deliver the letter. He hopes that by letting Queenie know that he’s on his way, that she will fight to stay alive.
Along the way, he meets many people, at first reluctantly, and his pilgrimage to Queenie makes him a media legend, leading to other lost souls and media-hungry pilgrims joining him, whether he wants them to or not. But will his endeavours save Queenie? What does Maureen think about her wayward husband and why does Queenie mean so much to him if they weren’t lovers? When did the love between Maureen and Harold dissolve into disappointment and resentment?
There were many colours to choose from in this novel, but strangely, the shade which stuck with me throughout was the colour of Queenie’s notepaper to Harold – a Turkish Delight pink. I’m not sure I’ve truly captured this in the semi-solid colourway I’ve called Turkish Delight, but I went for a vivid reddish-pink, perhaps a little more vivid than the intended delicate colour of the letter, but striking for a pair of summer socks!
And for the variegated option, there’s a lovely description of a beautiful May, in which Harold walks past gardens crammed with lupins, roses and lady’s mantle; hedgerows filled with wild clematis, dog roses and elderflower and fields of vetch and campion, amongst other flora. So I took the vivid pink, added a rose pink, a fresh green, a lilacy purple and left some white, and came up with an old skool kind of SQ colourway which I’ve called Cottage Garden.
For the yarn base choice, it had to be a sock yarn – some of Harold’s fans knitted him socks for his journey – so I went for Squash – 100% merino.