Reviews: 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' and 'Perfect' by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joyce's debut novel is a work of art that explores how we should look at our lives, forgive ourselves and others for the past, and make the most of our future.

Joyce writes fluently and effortlessly, there are no awkward sentences, no jolting dialogue to disturb the flow of this read. By making her protagonist a retired man we can look back at his life, understand his decisions, feel for him over his mistakes, and look forward to a new beginning as he makes both the physical and metaphorical journey to a form of salvation. But do not think this is some sentimental piece of smulch: it is never cloying, never sickeningly sweet.

In 'Harold Fry' Joyce has achieved what Paolo Coelho set out to do in 'The Alchemist': give us hope and incentive to make the most of our lives. What Joyce doesn't have to do, but Coelho relied heavily on, is regurgitate the teachings of religious texts in an overt way. At the end of this book I felt that I had learned something, without it being rammed down my throat, that I could change my life if I acted upon it.

This is an enjoyable read that I would highly recommend.

View all my reviews PerfectPerfect by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I chose this book as I had just finished Joyce's 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry', which I really enjoyed.

To begin with I enjoyed the read, but I became irritated with one of the characters which put a bit of a dampner on the experience. The character's flaws were necessary to make the plot and storyline what they are, the irritation is purely of my own making - I find both fictional and real people like that incredibly annoying! - but the novel was saved by the way in which Joyce writes.

Joyce has a lovely use of language that means that you can trot through the book at a decent pace, feeling neither rushed nor as if the story has become lethargic. Her background in writing radio plays is evident in the way she keeps the storyline moving.

The Perfect life is, as we all should know, not attainable, though sometimes we get close, and Joyce shows that behind the curtains all is not as it would seem. 1972, when time was adjusted by 2 seconds, fractures Byron's seemingly perfect world. However, we are shown and Byron comes to see that, 2 seconds or not, perfection is not within the grasp of his family. The latent snobbery of the school mothers reminded me of Marjory from the Good Life except here there weren't any laughs.

The ending was particularly poignant and, as with 'Harold Fry', we are reminded that whilst life is far from perfect and we all make mistakes there is still hope.

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