Currently well involved in “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce and want to stop to reflect.
It’s another “walking wanderer” book. I’ve read several of these “trek” books lately (6 months!): “The Year of the Hare” (Arto Paasilinna) “The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window” (Jonas Jonasson) “Wild” (Cheryl Strayed) – maybe another? This one, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage …”, is different – but they all are. And there are several similarities as well. (Just my luck to happen upon them – all reading group selections but two were my nominations.)
“The Year of the Hare” is about the protagonist’s encounters with other folks along the way and their reactions to him. “The 100-Year Old Man…” is about an old guy who remembers his wanderings through sites of the 20th century, showing up for important people and events. “Wild” is the nonfiction account (memoir) of a woman who on impulse (!) hiked the Sierra Crest Trail. And “The Unlikely Pilgrimage …” is about a man who walks through his memories as his physical journey takes him through England.
The most significant similarity is that the protagonist doesn’t really “plan” his/her trip – 3 of them just up and take off down the road, walking. And none of these is a travelogue – not basically anyway. They are all somewhat picaresque in that they are comprised of different episodes, but only to one degree or another.
Also, the protagonists are all sympathetic (or intended to be that). “TYOTH” has the most sympathetic protagonist of the bunch, in large part due to his hare, but he’s not pure. “The 100-Year Old Man…” has a sympathetic 1st person protagonist, but he’s also “remembering” much of the tale and is completely unreliable. (heh). The protagonist of the memoir “Wild” tries hard to be sympathetic, for all her stupidity. And Harold Fry (of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage…”) is sympathetic enough, but apparently has some “issues.” (We’ll see.)
Imo, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage …” is the most nicely written of the bunch but that might be in part because it was not translated. “TYotH” is perfectly well written for what it is – (Zen-like simplicity) and “The 100-Year Old Man…” is nicely written for the laughs. “Wild” is … okay … (not my cuppa).
“The Unlikely Pilgrimage…” has a nice structure and interesting metaphors. This one is different in that the story includes his wife and son back home who have to deal with his absence. None of the other “trail” books do anything like that.
More later …